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The Advantages & Disadvantages of Social Networking for Job Hunting

Whether you like it or not, employers often use social media to help make their hiring decisions. You can't fault them -- it simply makes sense from their perspective. Social media is advantageous for your search if you use it as a networking tool and keep your profiles clean and professional. However, it can work against you if your social media presence is rife with unprofessional photos and statements.

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Finding Leads

One of the biggest advantages of using social media in your job search is finding leads that you wouldn't know of otherwise. Social media sites geared specifically toward professional networking, for obvious reasons, have some of the best job leads. However, if you follow company pages and accounts on other social media hubs, you might come across a job posting that's a perfect fit. Brad Schepp, co-author of "How To Find A Job On LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+," recommends you join groups related to your career interests on a myriad sites.

Do Your Research

There was once a time that you could only research a company and its mission by asking around town. Now, you can not only learn more about the organization through its website, but also by following them on various social media sites. Not only might the employer check to see if you've engaged by "following" or "liking" the company, but you can show off your know-how in the interview. "Mentioning a particular post or article that was posted on the social media site really shows that you've done your research and are interested in the company," says Bob Kovalsky, senior vice president of Adecco Staffing U.S., which is based in New York.

All About Networking

Networking happy hours have their place, but the networking advantage of social media can't be overstated. "Social media simply makes the world smaller," Kovalsky says. "Job seekers can utilize social media to find and develop connections at smaller companies." He suggested reaching out to a friend of a friend or former classmate who works for a company that you're interested in. Having a personal connection within the company can help elevate your resume to the top of the pile, he says.

Clean It Up

For all its advantages, using social media while job search has its disadvantages if you don't use it properly. A 2014 survey from CareerBuilder found that 51 percent of employees found content on the social media profiles of job candidates that caused the recruiter to pass on hiring. It's easy to give the wrong impression on social media if you allow photos from nights out at the bar -- even if they're years old from college -- or post unflattering statuses, rife with immature comments and grammatical errors. Sarah Weinberger, a Los Angeles-based career coach, recounts an incident in which a client lost a job over his personal political viewpoints. The client's skill set was in need and his LinkedIn profile was professional. "I am not even sure why I decided to check out his Facebook page, because I usually do not, but I did. What I saw was Nazi symbols all over the place. This guy was a neo-Nazi and did not shy away from that on his Facebook page," she says. "His response was that he has lots of Jewish friends and that the Nazi symbol has many meanings. That took care of that." The client did not get the job.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Use Social Media to Land a Job

Pros and Cons for Employers

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 43 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. "The resume and job interview tell part of the story," Weinberger says. "Short of hiring everyone for a few months and then rolling back the clock and seeing which one works out best, the best way to get a complete picture is through using social media in a job hunt." Additional benefits of using social media for recruiting for companies, according to the UK-based Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, include cost savings, an increase in applicants and being able to target specific groups of candidates. Disadvantages, however, include the accuracy of online information, perceptions of privacy invasion and potential questions of a lack of fair processes in hiring.

Photo via Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

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