The Hot Job Hunting Debate: To Facebook or Not?

Facebook is a fighting word when it comes to job hunting. That is because many experts are adamant that only those with rocks between their ears would look for work on it. But a growing number of experts say that ignoring Facebook - with its more than 1 billion users - is plain stupid.

The increased advocacy for it as a platform for professional advancement is because some of us are in fact finding work Mark Zuckerberg's creation. A survey by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) put a spotlight on the role of social media in employer hiring. Some 57% of respondents said they had sourced new hires through LinkedIn; no news there. But 19% said they had done so through Facebook.

There’s another side, though. One-third of companies, in another SHRM survey, said they had disqualified job candidates because of information about them that was found online and in social media. That’s the real rub with Facebook. Many of us have posted things that are turn offs to recruiters. Ask experts who discourage using Facebook for job hunting why they believe so, and they all point to the embarrassment factor - and to the fact that what we may say to friends outside work -- that is, on Facebook - is very different from what we are likely to say to a recruiter.

Then there is a complicating wrinkle, pointed out by career strategy coach Leila Hock, who said to avoid Facebook in job hunts “unless you have a strong control system in place that monitors how your friends and family tag you or what photos they post of you.” That is a problem. When a buddy posts a photo of you passed out on the floor at a frat party ten years ago and a recruiter happens to see it today, how will that impact your chances at that company?

Facebook, incidentally, allows you to remove a tag that mentions you in a post. You do not have the ability to remove the post itself, which will remain visible on Facebook. So, although your name may be removed, a recruiter still may see a clearly identifiable photo of you.

But maybe the risks are worth it. Particularly if you go about Facebook with the right attitude.

Executive recruiter John Paul Engel said that the 250 people who would go to your wedding or funeral are probably the same people who will help lead you to your next job - and just maybe they are the same people you know on Facebook. He added: “It's important to stay positive and specific. Avoid any arguments over politics, cat photos, etc.”

“It is important for job seekers to provide positive commentary in Facebook groups and when commenting on individual’s status/posts, as this can also play a role in rounding out a company’s assessment of a candidate’s qualifications and personality," said Colin Moor, an expert with Essex Partners, an executive career management company. "The power of Facebook can generate a positive or negative ‘personal brand.’”

More companies, incidentally, are saying they use Facebook in recruitment. “We’ve found Facebook to be an extremely valuable and cost efficient way to recruit non-managerial, line-staff positions,” said Kate Sammler with Vantage Point Retirement Living.

Tim Moorhead with advertising agency Ainsley & Co. offered a different perspective on Facebook’s growing power in hiring. “One of the most effective uses of Facebook advertising I've found have been with recruitment campaigns," he said. "Just like any other Facebook ad, you have the ability to hyper target your audience based on a number of factors like location, education, home status, interests, etc. You can create a persona of the person using this targeting information and very easily serve them ads on Facebook. One really cool thing I've found are people tagging their friends who may be looking for work.”

It’s not all just theory, either. Digital marketing manager Goran Mirkovic said he personally has gotten three jobs as a result of his Facebook activity, all involved in the film industry. “As a cinephile, I enjoy reviewing movies and following up on all the news from the industry," he said. "I used to check a lot of film related groups, follow up on threads and write my comments on all film distributor pages. I was quite active and helpful. My comments were being noticed, people liked them, and replied.”

“I also created a fan page and kept producing content that I originally wrote for my website," Mirkovic said. "Before I could say ‘See you at the movie,’ [a big] film distributor sent me a private message, asking if I would like to write content for them. Nine years later, I still work with them on a monthly basis.”

Bottomline: know who you want to impress and create content that will attract their notice. Facebook just may put you in front of people who would never open a direct email from you.