ACCA - The global body for professional accountants

Social networking has become increasingly important as a tool to help find a new job over the last few years. We explore how to ensure you can maximise the value of channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Networking has always been a great way of finding jobs and opportunities, and with social media it has become possible to take it to another level.

Social media usage in finance has grown enormously in recent years, with more and more people relying on the channel as a core networking tool. It allows you to have greater access to individuals with whom you may not otherwise have the chance to connect with – essentially, you can connect with nearly anyone who has a presence online.

Nicholas Kirk, senior managing director at Page Personnel Finance, says: ‘Social media can be useful for networking within finance; there are a number of professional finance networks affiliated with ACCA. It would be useful to connect to these groups and get your name out there commenting on any relevant status updates.

‘Even if you don’t receive comments back, you are still building an online presence  and this is becoming ever more influential.

‘Use social media to boost your job search – many businesses now embrace social media as part of their talent attraction strategy. A potential employer can discover a sense of your personality before an interview that they don’t necessarily get from your CV and cover letter.’

When thinking about finding a job using social media, most people tend to think of LinkedIn, as it is a social platform for professionals who are actively looking to network.

Phil Sheridan, UK managing director at Robert Half, says: ‘There are over 10 million people in the UK currently using LinkedIn, so it is important for professionals   to keep their networks informed, whether they are using the site for recruitment purposes or as a general networking tool. LinkedIn profiles help employees and job seekers increase visibility online and help build a professional profile, so it’s important that information is complete, detailed and accurate.

‘While most people think about LinkedIn as the most effective way to find a job using social media, it is important to know that there are other social networks that can be just as much help, such as starting a blog or creating your own website.’

Blogging is a great way to build your online profile. If you have time and knowledge it can be an effective way to show potential  employers that you know a lot about a particular subject and are passionate about it.

Personal websites can be time-consuming to create, but they are a good way of keeping information about you up to date and personalised and they are an effective platform for you to be able to direct interested parties to from your social media accounts.

Ellis King, manager at Morgan McKinley, says: ‘Blogs are also a fantastic way to position yourself as an authoritative voice in your sector and put you on the radar of hiring organisations.

‘It is worth considering starting a blog and posting regularly on trends within the accounting field and personal insights and then share these on your other social media channels – could you tweet about it or seed it into a relevant accounting group on LinkedIn, for example? And be sure to also comment on other industry blogs to raise your online visibility.’

If blogging isn’t for you, it may be worth considering microblogs such as Twitter, which allows you to share content and perspectives in 140-word posts. Also, don’t discount communicating with other blogs by posting comments, sharing content or even providing a guest article if there is a subject matter you are particularly interested in.

James Smith, associate director at Morgan McKinley, believes social media can be used to ‘stalk’ potential employers in a light-hearted way to find out what job opportunities they might have and as a means to start engaging with them.

‘Take a look at what channels they (potential employers) are using – LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, for example, and connect with them so you can start engaging. If you view a potential hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile, for instance, they will be notified that you have done so and you will be on their radar,’ he says.   

‘Likewise, if you start following them on Twitter, why not send them a message asking for more information about careers. Secondly, identify “touch points” – could you like their latest LinkedIn post and comment on it? Could you share their latest blog? This not only gets you on their radar, but it’s also good etiquette.’

While there are undeniable benefits that social networking can bring to job hunting, there are a number of considerations to keep in mind, such as keeping your online profiles current and relevant.

Ellis King agrees. ‘It’s imperative that your social media profiles are up to date and that you keep your professional and personal ones separate.

‘Many employers and recruiters will do an online search of your name upon receiving a CV and you want to guarantee the results make you stand out for the right reasons. For example, make sure your personal Facebook account has the privacy setting switched on so your personal life stays this way and doesn’t impact your career aspirations.’

While it is good to extend your network through social media by connecting with fellow professionals and potential employers, it is important that you consider quality over quantity. It is easy to waste time on social media without gaining much success. It is a much better idea to identify the people and businesses that are realistically going to help you in your job search rather than connecting with just anyone.

Sheridan also warns trainees not to forget the traditional routes to finding a new job. He adds: ‘Despite the popularity of LinkedIn and other forms of social media,  hiring managers still prefer more traditional recruitment methods and most employers still believe this to be the most effective approach for screening candidates and assessing competencies.

‘Ensuring your CV and interview skills are top notch, as well as registering with a recruitment consultant who specialises in your field, will be critical tasks in landing your next job.’

It is also worth remembering that no matter how strong your CV is, if an employer finds your online presence inappropriate or offensive in any way, you could be jeopardising your chances of landing the role or even getting an interview. If there are several good quality candidates all vying for the same position, an employer will be actively seeking ways to filter down their selection.

Kirk adds: ‘Don’t bad-mouth fellow colleagues, your boss or the company you currently or previously worked for on social networking sites. You can never be completely sure of who will access this information and their subsequent affiliations.

‘This is not to suggest that you’re overly fearful of social media or that you should feel inhibited – it’s just advisable to be aware of your online image.’

Last updated: 5 Jan 2014