Job Search: Pros and Cons of Online Social Networking - dummies

Job Search: Pros and Cons of Online Social Networking

Your online image in social networking services is becoming as important as the customized cover letters and resumes you send in more familiar employment explorations. Get an edge by making sure you know how to use social networking technology — even if you have to take a class in it.

Benefits to social networking

Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. Find jobs. Hire employees. All these good things are ascribed to the rising phenomenon of online professional social networking services, which are changing the face of recruiting. Consider the following:

  • Both a personal and a corporate presence on a social network is a tool for success. Social networking services (such as Facebook or MySpace) originally became popular in 2002 as fun things to do among the younger set. Facebook and MySpace now encourage professionals in business, as well as fun seekers in their original base, to post online profiles.

  • Participation in professional online networks (such as LinkedIn) is an essential tool that links business people and careerists who know each other together in a Web of interconnections. LinkedIn has captured the prestige and numbers in the professional and business market.

    In 2008, CNBC and LinkedIn sealed an alliance, in effect combining their business audiences. The deal followed an alliance months earlier between LinkedIn and The New York Times.

  • Other newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times are using social networking to offer reader forums, blogs, and communities.

Downsides to social networking

Online networking clearly is too gigantic to be ignored in an increasingly hypercompetitive job market. However, there are some concerns:

  • Networking fatigue. Some networkers have grown tired of what once was novel. The essential problem may be that they sign up for every new networking site in sight, and then find they’re spending too much time keeping up with their sign-ups.

  • User frustration. Aggregating means combining and forming a whole; Web sites such as and aggregate content to make it easy for job hunters to search for specific advertised jobs. Although a host of start-ups are aggregating social networking profiles, online videos, and more, no dominant aggregator has appeared for social networking.

  • Eternal digital billboards. Like resumes, online profiles can stick around in cyberspace even after you’ve deleted an unflattering profile (“Look at me wasted after a pub crawl!” “Here’s me, showing off my butt tattoos!”). Your profile “ghosts” can exist for years.

  • Narrow niche. Resumes and profiles can put a job seeker into a particular category that may be too rigid. So why not just try to say you’re a one-person-band in your online profile or resume? Except for micro-sized companies, employers usually prefer to hire a specialist, not a jack of all trades.

  • Employers’ legal risks. Employers fear legal exposure if, prior to meeting a candidate in person, they uncover information about the candidate’s characteristics that can lead to discrimination in hiring — such as gender, age, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Even when a hiring decision is made without bias, the employer may have to defend the non-hiring choice to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or in a court of law.

  • Recruiters’ time management woes. Recruiters may source (find) candidates themselves or subcontract the work to professional sourcers. Scouring social networking sites, blogs, and other Web 2.0 resources eats up enormous amounts of time.

Although your online presence increases your visibility in the job market, it can also quash your chances of getting the job. Because your network is a reflection of you, be selective in keeping your network filled with individuals you’d be proud to stand next to.