Ten years ago, human resources (HR) staff might only perform a cursory Google search to check on a job applicant’s background, just to make sure nothing serious lurked in the shadows of their past. Today, however, social media has become an integral part of the recruitment process for many companies, and keeping a low digital profile can hamper one’s employment prospects.
To stand out from the crowd of other online jobseekers, you have to show that you are an active professional and a thought leader.
“Recruiters and potential bosses will check you out online, so try your best to create the kind of digital footprint that you want them to find,” says Napoleon Biggs, founder of the Asia-wide Web Wednesday networking event.
“Search engines will track your public appearances on the internet, be it your daily musings on blogs, reactionary tweets on Weibo or shared photos on Facebook. Learn to influence your appearance on results pages by playing with your social media postings to see what comes up first.”
He singles out LinkedIn as worthy of particularly attention. “LinkedIn is a recruiter’s new Rolodex, so make sure you come across well by including a complete resume, some healthy pursuits and lots of third-party endorsements,” he says.
When you present yourself on social networks, branding and reputation are very important. The circle of friends, associates and relationships you have says a lot about you.
“Think of yourself as a brand. Think of how you want to be perceived. Do you want to be seen as a creative person, a pioneer or a thought leader?” Biggs says.
With a growing list of social media channels at our disposal, however, it can be difficult to know where to start. Experts advise to settle on the most appropriate channels first and ensure that you are talking to the right audiences.
You also have to keep in mind that social media can be very time consuming, so it is inadvisable to spread yourself too thin and not be able to keep up with the various channels. First choose one or two websites and master those, then see how many more you have time for.
Finally, once you have settled on the most appropriate channels, start measuring the results, so you can further focus on the most effective ones.
Which ones are the most interesting for you professionally? Where do you get the most exposure? Where do you get the most relevant feedback?
“Stay very focused,” says Ian Strutton, director of Experis Hong Kong, a member of ManpowerGroup. “Decide who you want to network with and how that is going to help you. Talk to people who are within your industry and function.”
Experts tend to agree that Facebook should be kept strictly to friends and family, while LinkedIn is good for professional exposure. The latter has more than 34 million members in Asia-Pacific and 187 million worldwide, who collectively performed more than 5.3 billion professionally orientated searches in 2012. The site also offers good exposure for passive candidates who want to be noticed by Fortune 500 companies, as each is represented by executives who are LinkedIn members.
Elaine Khoo, a recruiter for a global headhunting firm, says it is important to present a clear and updated career history on LinkedIn, and to seek referrals from colleagues and bosses.
“LinkedIn users should also sign up to related forums to learn and share,” she says. “They are widely used and joining the right ones for your industry is very important. You should post questions to senior members within the forums so as to be heard and to flag your profile.”
For Chinese speakers, Twitter or Sina Weibo should be used to follow industry thought leaders and experts to understand the latest occurrences and act before anyone else.
“Social media is a great way to keep up with the latest trends in your industry, but beware, as you can rapidly get inundated with ‘update overload’,” Biggs says. “Seek out trusted guides or industry leaders to do the filtering for you, and then follow them.”
Other social media networks are more specialised. Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram are mainly used in the creative industries. If you have a difficult question you want to ask, you can refer to Quora, a question-answer website run by its users.
Some programs help to manage multiple social media channels at once. TweetDeck is a social media dashboard for managing Twitter and Facebook, while Hootsuite, a paid service with 5 million users, covers all popular social media websites. About.me allows users to link all their portfolios from different channels together.
Users should remember that social media has its own etiquette that dictates that messages should be polite and spelt correctly. Users should also give as well as take, and remember that relationships do not simply form because people are connected – they have to be worked on, just like in real life.
When trying to connect with someone new, it is also important to approach them in a polite manner. “When I connect with people in my industry, I explain why I want to connect with them, and the answer is very positive most of the time,” says Strutton.
Finally, social media users should make sure they have a respectable history. If they’ve left a few unsavoury remarks dotted around the internet in their past that can easily be found and attributed to them, they should try their best to have them deleted.