Radoslaw Kobylka wasn't looking for a new job, but as soon as he set up his professional profile on the social-media site LinkedIn, employers started contacting him to see if he was interested in a move.
"I actually got contacted by five or six companies asking me if I was in the market," said Mr. Kobylka, 29. Within two weeks of replying to a message from software developer Softchoice Corp. in Toronto, he was offered a job as assessment services developer, which he started last April.
Recruiting through social media is increasingly common, so experts say it's essential to not only have a presence on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, but also to have profiles on those sites that highlight your professional skills and accomplishments with consistency.
The growth and global reach of social-media sites make it possible to find candidates for jobs at any level – not just executive positions, said Cindy Harvey, human resources manager for Softchoice in Toronto.
Last year about 60 of the 400 software specialists Softchoice hired were identified by computer searches of LinkedIn profiles to find potential candidates who had the right qualifications and experience. And about half of them were initially contacted by messages sent through LinkedIn, rather than by phone, she said.
Across Canada, 500 companies are doing at least some of their recruiting through LinkedIn, said Jonathan Baldock, a relationship manager for LinkedIn in Toronto.
Companies pay licence fees to search LinkedIn's full data base and to post openings on the site's job board. Companies also buy LinkedIn services to find people whose profiles show they might be candidates for a new position, even if they are not considering moving from their current jobs.
Opinion surveys sent from LinkedIn, which do not mention the name of the employer, sometimes serve a company's initial approach to potential candidates. In the case of Softchoice, the survey asks general questions about people's opinions about the profession, to get a feel of their interest in a job move.
In a second phase in Softchoice's strategy, LinkedIn places pop-up ads about opportunities at the company that appear the next time a potential candidate looks at the site. One ad puts the person's LinkedIn photo in a mock job announcement with the headline saying "picture yourself as the next employee of Softchoice," Ms. Harvey said.
Next, the survey respondents receive an in-mail message asking if they would like to hear more about opportunities at the company. Those who respond get another message asking if they'd like to schedule an interview.
This trend means that even if you aren't currently in the market for a new career, opportunities can come to you if you have a professional presence on social-media sites.
"Your social-media profile has become, in effect, an online résumé and it's important that it is targeted to your career objectives," said Randall Craig, president of Pinetree Advisors consulting firm in Toronto and co-author of Social Media for Business.
"If you're looking for a new role ... you have to make sure that you include the key words that are relevant to the particular job you aspire to. You also should be active in the LinkedIn groups and industry groups that employers are likely to be looking at," he said.
Describe your strengths and experiences in words that are relevant to your particular specialty, but don't be too narrow. "[The best profiles are]comprehensible to readers who are not up to speed with the jargon in your specialty area," Mr. Craig advised.
When potential employers look at your material, there should be a lot of information they can pursue, he added. "Often times people forget to include things, such as references from people you've worked with and volunteer work."
Mr. Kobylka was organized in his approach. When he joined LinkedIn last February, he wasn't sure he wanted to make an immediate job change, but hoped eventually to move into a broader role than he could find at his then-employer Doc.it, a small company in Hamilton.
He included words in his profile that indicated he was up on the latest technology, and put an itemized list of projects he had been involved with that used his experience, as well as hobbies that included programming Then, he started participating in several discussion groups for software developers that are run on LinkedIn that discuss trends in the industry.
After being contacted by Softchoice, Mr. Kobylka also used LinkedIn to prepare for the interview. "I looked at the profile of the person who would be interviewing me and it gave me a sense of his experience. I found that he was a technical guy and would understand technical descriptions of what I've done," he said.
The discussion went well and he had a second interview with a senior manager, after which he landed the job offer.
"While I had heard of Softchoice, I'd never thought to contact them," he said. "I'm glad they contacted me."
WHAT NOT TO DO
When searching for a job, be careful that you don't disqualify yourself with your online behaviour or personal information.
"Sadly, there is this belief that what happens in the social-media world is not as important as in the real world. Tweeting inappropriate things, posting unflattering photos or taking liberties with the facts will kill your chances," said Randall Craig, president of Pinetree Advisors in Toronto and author of Social Media for Business.
"Employers are using social networks not only to [find]people, but also to screen people and you have to be prepared for that. It's reasonable to expect employers will check to verify statements and look for inconsistencies and experiences that don't match in what you've posted on other sites," he said. "People who try to play games and stuff their profiles full of key words to show up on searches are only fooling themselves, because the results sound contrived."
Online profiles can also highlight things that employers aren't allowed to ask about in interviews. Mr. Craig suggests purging some information, such as:
Personal details: Your age, marital status, sexual orientation, political views or party membership, or religious beliefs. Facebook has a feature that can embarrassingly send out notes to remind all your connections that you're 58 this week. You may not want potential employers to know this
Your graduation year: Education is important, but no matter how loyal a member of the class of '69 you may be, employers can do the math.
Too many updates: Prospective employers will wonder how you have the time to Tweet or update your status several times each day. If you say irrelevant or stupid things, they may see you as irrelevant or stupid as well.
Compromising photos: Photos of you chugging Coronas in Cozumel probably paint the wrong picture of your professional attributes.
When creating a professional profile online, people often leave out information that can attract recruiters or prove helpful in a job search. Be sure to include:
Volunteer work: Giving back to the community shows you are caring and multifaceted.
Recommendations: Include not only praise from former managers, co-workers and clients, but also those you have worked with in the community.
Details of your successes: Some may feel shy about tooting their own horn, but give yourself credit for major achievements in your field.
Links to your expertise: If you have a blog or personal website, have written articles or books, or Tweet, give people an easy way to see them. Better yet, embed them directly within your LinkedIn profile.
Keywords: Sprinkle relevant keywords throughout your text to improve the chances of being found in a search.