We think of Facebook as a way to connect with friends, not necessarily hiring managers or employers. But with over 500 million active users, Facebook is useful for professional networking, too.
Here are some ways you can use Facebook to land your next job:
1. Follow your target companies on Facebook. Some companies, such as Ernst & Young and Ford Motor Company, have special Facebook pages specifically for recruiting. You might find out about job opportunities on their Facebook pages quicker than finding their postings on a job board or their own career portal. It's also a place to learn more about the company culture and ask the recruiting department questions about the hiring process. In smaller companies, the page may even be monitored by the decision makers, putting you in direct contact with the person who offers opportunities or hires.
2. Contact employers directly. Facebook allows users to send messages directly to other users even if you aren't friends with them, which is especially useful if you can't find their contact information anywhere else. Be careful with this approach though. Some people only want to communicate with their "real friends" on Facebook. Before contacting someone, make sure you've done your homework, and send a personalized message making sure to let them know who you are and why you are contacting them.
3. Use BranchOut for networking. BranchOut is a Facebook application similar to LinkedIn. It helps you find where your friends work—and where your friends’ friends work—and discover connections at your target companies or in your field.
4. Consider experimenting with Facebook Ads to target certain employers and gain attention. For a few bucks a day, you can promote your work through a creative job search advertisement. Target the ad to reach only people who work in certain companies or have specific information listed in their profile. Link to your online resume, blog, or other social media profiles so interested parties can quickly learn more about you.
5. Keep your privacy settings open enough for people to find you. If most companies are using social media sites for research as studies suggest, you want to make sure you profile can easily be found. It's a good idea to lock down certain parts of your profile, making, for example, personal photos available to your friends only, but allow biographical data, including your employment history, to be searchable. Also consider having your profile indexed in Google and allowing even non-friends to send you private messages.
6. Let your network know you’re on the job hunt. Letting people know some of the details of your job search could lead you to new introductions. Who knows, your college friend's cousin's wife might be the HR Manager in a relevant industry or at the company where you just applied—and maybe that person is willing to make a direct introduction. You could get the inside scoop with a simple status update letting your friends know the latest on your job hunt.
7. Optimize your profile for your job search. Make sure you fill out your employment history. You can easily list your professional online sites as well in the "information" field. Showcase some of your work, like writing samples or presentations, using third party Facebook applications like Slideshare. And play around with your privacy setting to make sure you job search information is accessible to everyone and everything else is only accessible to your friends.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.