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How Facebook, Twitter can make or break your job hunt

EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project.  Those VCU students reported the following story.

By Carliss Hardy and Amber Shiflett (Special to WTVR.com)

RICHMOND, Va. – When VCU senior Alexsis Rodgers recently applied for a job, she was asked to provide links to her blogs, her Twitter account and her LinkedIn page. It came in handy that the public relations and Spanish major uses all of these platforms to market herself professionally. Rodgers makes it a point to maintain a great level of professionalism on all of her social media platforms.

“I’m pretty much the same, both personal and professional,” she said. Although Rodgers has a large Facebook following, she maintains her privacy by limiting access to some of her personal information. “If you aren’t friends with me, you can’t see anything but my profile picture and where I am studying at school,” she said.

As college students get ready to graduate next month and send their applications, job recruiters will have an eye on their social media pages. They are a popular source to gather information on prospective employees, said Candace Nicolls, the principle job recruiter at Snagajob, who uses social media to find background information as an initial step in the hiring process.

“Social networks are absolutely one of the first places I look when a candidate applies,” Nicolls said. “What I look for when I look at someone’s social media is someone who is authentic and consistent across what they are doing.”

Rodgers’ social media networks include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Pinterest, Instagram and two WordPress blogs. “Over the summer my job could be just managing my social media. Last summer it was,” Rodgers said.

She focuses mainly on her Facebook and Twitter pages for networking purposes. Rodgers currently has nearly 200 followers on Twitter and over 1000 Facebook friends. She uses Twitter to promote her blog by using hashtags to draw audiences to the information she posts.

VCU career consultant Kim Hanneman said that she does not recommend the use of Facebook for professional use due to the lack of privacy.

“I hesitate to see Facebook as a great place for someone to use their professional lives,” Hanneman said. “A lot of people blend both professional and personal and many times that causes more problems than advantages.”

Professionals like Nicolls and Hanneman recommend LinkedIn instead to establish and maintain business connections, It is the world’s largest professional social network. Rodgers keeps her LinkedIn profile separate from her other social media platforms. She uses her LinkedIn page to display her resume and blog.

Both recruiting experts agree that social networking can be a very valuable tool for a professional, especially for someone in the job market. But the content and amount of information should be limited, depending on the professions. Nicolls encourages an online presence as long as it is used properly.

“Think carefully of what sort of representation you want a potential employer to have,” Nicolls said. “And be sure to lock down your privacy settings.” She added that there are individuals who have less of an online presence than prospective employers would like to see and often do not get hired.

On the other hand, Nicholls said that it is important to note that the amount users contribute to social networks depends on their profession. Certain professionals stress the importance of an online identity because it can have great effects on their job opportunities. It is important to remember that an online presence will outlive you and your career, said Nicolls.

Young professionals and prospective employees like Rodgers model the type of online presence experts look for in job candidates.

And Nicolls reminds all job hunters that “everything you post online is going to stay out there.”

This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.