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Friend, foe: Social media in job search

By Emery Cowan Herald staff writer

When it comes to job searching, social media and online information can be a double-edged sword.

Career advisers and employers say social media is a crucial venue to find job openings as employers increasingly use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and company blogs to recruit candidates and post open positions.

“Particularly since the great recession started there has just been substantially more interest in Internet activity related to job searches, and social media is part of that,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

On the other hand, the ease of tracing a person’s digital footprints allows employers to dig up dirt that could crush a candidate’s shot at the job.

A 2011 study by social-media monitoring service Reppler showed that of 300 hiring professionals surveyed, 91 percent used social-networking sites to screen prospective employees. Of those, almost 70 percent said they had rejected a candidate because of something they found on a social-media website.

Another study by Eurocom Worldwide, a global public-relations network, found almost 1-in-5 technology companies decided not to hire a candidate because of something found on their social-media profile.

Local companies also pay attention to a person’s Internet history.

“When we get somebody applying for a job, we’re going to Google their name and see what pops up,” said Dave Thibodeau, president and co-founder of Ska Brewing Co. “If there is something unflattering, that could be a reason not to hire them.”

Jessica Denison, chief operating officer of Chinook Medical Gear, said she will scan candidates’ social-media profiles if they have them.

“It tells me something about them if they have it, and also what they choose to put up there,” she said.

An active social-media presence can certainly have its upsides, Denison said. If Chinook is hiring for a sales or marketing position, she said, she would consider it a disadvantage if a candidate wasn’t on Twitter and Facebook.

Those media are also good for job searching. Local businesses, from the Irish Embassy Pub to Chinook Medical Gear Inc., use social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn to find and recruit candidates.

The pub posts job openings on its Facebook page and on the directory site 360Durango, owner Phil Brennan said. SOS Employment Group uses Facebook to recruit potential employees, advertise career fairs and answer questions about what the company does, Durango branch manager Mark Prouty said.

Chinook Medical Gear uses LinkedIn to reach out to industry contacts when looking to hire people remotely, Denison said.

Even Durango School District 9-R is jumping into Facebook and Twitter, said Julie Popp, the district’s spokeswoman. The district is considering posting job opportunities on Facebook when it finishes setting up the account, Popp said.

Fort Lewis College senior Kristin Hopper said her experience with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is an asset as she pursues a career in social-media and online marketing.

“Companies look for people who are technologically savvy,” Hopper said.

Social media also allow people to expand their network to include a much larger group of people. Though many such connections are “weak ties,” those are actually more useful than closer relationships in the job search, Rainie said.

Studies have consistently found that people who have the most weak ties tend to get better jobs, he said. That’s because people’s close friends are more likely to be similar to them and know the same people and opportunities. Acquaintances, on the other hand, tend to have different careers, live in different places or belong to different social circles and, therefore, are more likely know of job opportunities a job seeker hasn’t discovered, Rainie said.

“They can point out opportunities in industries, in communities, in skill sets that your friends probably can’t,” he said.

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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