Hey @you! Get #social with your #jobhunt

Social media isn't just for socializing anymore. Companies have started to use social media sites to advertise job opportunities and are checking your social media accounts before hiring you.

We've all be cautioned against posting scandalous or drunken pictures on Facebook and using “inappropriate” language on Twitter, but many people aren't aware of the other side of social media. Some have spent so much time on what not to do that they don't know what to do.

The growing trend among employers is to focus on the positive aspects of social media accounts. Some employers in certain industries are even going so far as to request that applicants not submit resumes, but simply a cover letter and the link to whichever social media sites they feel like sharing.

When local digital agency rtraction was looking to hire a Business Development Manager, they requested that all applicants submit links to their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blog or personal website.

“This is the first position, it's a bit of a trial run for us ... The position we (were) looking for, given that it's sales-related, I would hope nowadays a salesperson who's going to sell media would have a good network established on LinkedIn, so that's something we can measure a bit. How long have they been in there? How big is their network? How much are they keeping up to date? We decided that for this position, it just made sense,” explained Shawn Adamsson, Vice President of Operations at rtraction.

Other companies still prefer to accept resumes but use Twitter for advertising open positions. When downtown retail store Novack's was looking to hire an Online Marketing Coordinator, they chose to advertise the opening solely on Twitter. “I could have probably picked out 90 per cent of the people who applied for the job because they're sort of in that Twitter circle, and that's how (Novack's) found me,” said Jody Bailey, the man who landed the job.

“When this job came up, Paul Kaplan, the owner of Novack's, and his son Adam, they said, ‘(We're) hiring someone for online marketing and social media, just post it on Twitter.' I don't think they posted it anywhere else. I wouldn't have seen it if it wasn't on Twitter because everyone retweeted it,” he continued.

Many smaller grassroots companies that don't quite have the resources for large-scale advertising make use of this type of technology to find employees. Aimee Legault, Co-Editor and Editorial Director at Off The Map (OTM), a webzine based in Toronto, said they have used social media sites to find writers. Legault said that even though they hired a writer through Twitter, the success of posting jobs on social media depends on how large your network is. “It only worked because (the writer) was following us already. Otherwise, we would be depending on retweets to reach people who aren't already fans of OTM,” she said, showing that in order to find job postings on Twitter, it's vital to be involved in the online community.

“For (some) industries, if you don't even have a Twitter account on your resume when you're applying, even if you're a student applying for an internship, they're not interested because they want you to be active in the community as much as they're active as a business,” said Bailey.

Bailey has a unique relationship with Twitter as it's his main means of communication. “I don't have a phone at all. My primary form of communication is Twitter. If you want to get a hold of me, you send me a direct message. If I don't follow you, I don't want you to get a hold of me,” he laughed.

He described how he first got involved with Twitter, crediting it for his level of involvement in the community. When he was a student, someone suggested he follow the hashtag #ldnont on Twitter to find ways to get more involved. “It literally changed my life. It sounds so clichd, but that's the truth, because then you saw the Shawn Adamssons and the Kevin Van Lierops (Community Energizer at Emerging Leaders London Community Network) and what all these people did in this community, and Twitter was sort of this big communication hub,” he explained.

Bailey suggested that anyone who is trying to figure out how to maximize the use of Twitter start by simply paying attention. “You don't have to be a part of it, you could just watch it and show up at events and you can do stuff in the community by just watching ... You don't even have to interact with them, you just have to show that you're listening. I think that's mostly what it sounds like (companies) are looking for, just someone who's listening at the very least ... By not listening, you're saying you don't want to be a part of the community.”

According to Adamsson, the way you interact on social media sites like Twitter can help make you stand out when you're applying for a job. “If you're just talking with your buddies about getting together on Friday night to have a beer, then that's not gonna impact us one way or the other,” he said, adding that he manages both his own personal Twitter account as well as the official rtraction one.

“We don't count your personal interactions against you, but the professional stuff that you're doing could very well help you with the position,” said Adamsson, so be conscientious about what you're posting on Facebook and Twitter and the message it sends out about you.

For some people, it might be easier and more manageable to keep both a personal and a professional account. “On my personal Twitter account, I'm very much me. I'm very outspoken, I talk about politics, I talk about all sorts of things. Those things don't necessarily do much for me as far as getting a job. When I tweet under our company (name), that's about building a community,” explained Adamsson.

One of the best things to do when using social media sites in your job hunt is to not get intimidated or overwhelmed. “Social media experts are just people who know how to negotiate a conversation,” said Bailey. “I don't like the term “social media”, it's just communications. It's nothing different than we've ever seen before ... They're just different tools for what we've always done,” he continued.

Some people may be concerned about sharing too much information, or may be nervous about saying or posting something they might regret later, but Bailey feels this can be easily resolved. “It's this mindset of being comfortable with who you are, and if you are, then you should have no problem having any conversation in the public sphere,” he explained.

Ultimately, it's about finding your own personal balance by being as involved as you're comfortable with, whether it's just by paying attention to those around you or by being vocal and active in conversations. Set reasonable goals for yourself in order to maintain your online presence. Perhaps you want to make one new LinkedIn connection each week or write one tweet each day. Create an effective guideline for yourself that you can easily follow.

Social media has changed the job search forever — in fact, I even arranged all of these interviews using Twitter — so #getwiththetimes.