Dann Diaz was unemployed for the second time in as many years, a victim twice over of corporate sales and downsizing. For four months, he rewrote his resume almost daily, submitting it to postings from large online job listings. No luck. Then he took a class on social media and job searching. One LinkedIn profile, dozens of online introductions and four interviews later, he had a job. It had been two weeks. "I tell everybody I know who is looking for a job, 'Set up your LinkedIn account,'" he said. With unemployment hovering, it's advice that recruiters and career coaches urge all job seekers to heed -- especially those who are mid-career. Applications are online.
Networking happens on LinkedIn. Eager candidates follow industry news on Twitter. Interviews are conducted via Skype. "You have to accept what the tools are now. They've changed," said Paul DeBettignies, vice president of recruiting for HireCast Consulting, a Minneapolis-based IT recruiting firm.
Social media networks are the way around the faceless, nameless online forms and a chance for older workers to demonstrate knowledge of current technology and trends, job seekers say. It's just like old-fashioned networking, gone digital.
Nancy Zats of Plymouth is using Twitter and LinkedIn to search for a recruiting job after 21 years as a stay-at-home mom, and has adopted tech tools in her search.
"You can almost get discriminated against if you aren't involved in these things," she said. "They want to know how technologically advanced you are."
A 2012 survey by Jobvite, a recruiting technology company, found that 92 percent of the more than 1,000 recruiters and human resources professionals worldwide planned to use social media for recruiting. Eighty-six percent said they would search for the social media profiles of applicants.
DeBettignies said companies, especially those hiring for white-collar jobs, have been moving to digital recruiting because that's where the candidates are found in an easily searchable format. Some companies post positions on Twitter, while others attract prospective workers through branded career pages on Facebook. And then there are job postings and networking on LinkedIn. Those three sites alone host more than 1.3 billion accounts worldwide.
Other online resources, some more helpful than others, include everything from such giant online job boards as Monster.com to such niche sites as KnowEm.com, which lets people reserve their name as the Web address of their profile on a variety of different sites. Google is handy for seeing what pops up when job seekers enter their names. Pipl and Spokeo also show background info mined from public records.
The social sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, can be intimidating for some users because they worry about posting private information and photos publicly. But Anne Pryor, a LinkedIn expert and co-owner of Minneapolis career coaching firm Meaningful Connections, said asking a knowledgeable friend for help gets people off to a good start.
"When we have the intention of using these tools to help others, I see the connections just grow exponentially," she said.
Mike Lang, who works at the Minnesota WorkForce Center in Burnsville, fielded so many questions about social media offerings that he started teaching free classes on the subject at several monthly sessions to anxious searchers.
"A lot of them just want to know why they need to use it or how it can help them," Lang said.
One lesson he hopes they take away from class?
"Most employers do some sort of online background check on us anyway," he said. "If we have something nice, a nice LinkedIn profile out there, that's taking control of what employers see when they do that background check."
Marcia Ballinger, principal at executive recruiting firm KeyStone Search, is one of those who Googles prospective candidates.
If that search doesn't return some sort of LinkedIn or professional online presence, she said, it can make a recruiter pause. For instance, she said a candidate for a sales job who lacks an online presence or only has a few contacts on LinkedIn isn't demonstrating mastery of today's technology and networking tools.
"It's baseline activity," she said. "It should be one of the first things you should do and do it well. It will help you find opportunities."
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