Two decades ago, recruiting job candidates typically took place in person at a job fair or via a print-based advertisement, usually in a major newspaper. Today, few jobs are found in newspapers and while job fairs still exist, they serve many purposes that extend well beyond recruitment. From employment-focused sites, like Mediabistro and LinkedIn, to more multi-purpose social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, recruitment is increasingly taking place online.

One recent survey reported that 94% of recruiters now use some form of social Leveraging Social Media as a Recruitment or Job Search Toolmedia to recruit job candidates. The same survey discovered that 73% of candidates found their last job through social media. While social media may now be the predominant avenue through which recruitment takes place, many organizations have yet to come up with clear protocols on how to use social media platforms for recruitment and many job candidates have yet to fully appreciate just how important it is to create an online profile that is not simply a collage of one’s professional life and personal photographs, tweets and other potentially incriminating and embarrassing materials.

Recommendations for Recruiters

Focus on quality not quantity: While social media is often measured by quantity, as a recruiter, weigh quality higher than quantity. You’re ultimately not online to socialize but to source talent, so every interaction and post needs to promote your organization’s brand and have the potential to attract new talent.

Use LinkedIn: Ensure your organization has a current profile, encourage your employees to have current profiles, and when possible, join groups that will help you reach potential new employees.

Tap into current employees’ social media networks: Your employees are already on social media and have vast and diverse networks. Encourage employees to “friend” your organization’s Facebook page and encourage them to repost work-related links. Since your current employees’ social media networks are bound to include graduates from the same programs and former colleagues, in many respects, employees’ existing social media networks serve as a semi-screened pool of potential talent.

Recommendations for Job Candidates

Create a LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn might not lead directly to a job but it has become a go-to site to verify candidates’ identities and work backgrounds. Due to its high traffic, it is also often the first link to come up when someone searches your name online. For this reason, LinkedIn can be used as a way to direct would-be employers to your professional profile and away from your other life online (e.g., as a DIY craft beer maker or former trapeze artist).

Use Facebook to let people know you are on the job market: If you have a lot of friends on Facebook and they include people in your work sector, let them know that you’re looking for work. Bear in mind that many jobs are never officially posted, so getting the word out is critical.

Create an online portfolio: Depending on your profession, an online portfolio is highly recommended (especially for writers and designers). If you’re going to create an online portfolio, however, ensure it looks professional. If you’re using a WordPress site, spend a bit of extra money to purchase a template and upgrade so you can personalize your site. If you know nothing about web design, hire a designer to help you set up a professional looking and effective site. The small amount of money you spend creating a professional site will pay off.

Create an employer-friendly Twitter profile: If you’re comfortable doing so, put your job pitch on Twitter, but bear in mind, Twitter can also backfire. The optics of numbers are powerful. While one potential employer may read a candidate with 7000 followers who is only following 50 people as a rising star, another employer may read the candidate as overly confident or simply as someone who is more interested in talking than listening and more interested than advertising oneself than engagement.

Curate your avatars and profile photographs: Most people in their twenties and thirties now go on the job market with at least a few regrets, and these regrets often take the form of avatars and photographs from earlier days. Fortunately, unless you have an unusual name and your adolescent avatars and photographs were especially well tagged, they will eventually get buried beneath newer and more representative materials. Use your knowledge of social media to help push your current profile to the top of search results and moving forward, adopt avatars and profile photographers that are professional and representative of the personal brand you hope to promote on the job market.