Recruitment: Get yourself connected

Social networking sites are allowing graduates to forge useful links with industry. Virginia Matthews reports
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The Independent Online

"Just about every conceivable job or profession in the country – from deep sea diver to hospital doctor – has its own dedicated online forum, and if you can't find a relevant virtual network to join, you can assume that it's an industry you won't be able to apply to."

So says Matt Burney, UK territory manager for onrec.com, which follows new developments in the online recruitment world. Burney believes that while job-hunting via career sites such as Monster or Totaljobs is already the norm for graduates, there are moves afoot to tap into the fast-growing social networking sites too.

It has taken Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg less than four years to build his company from nothing to £4.95bn and the site already has 42 million active users worldwide; at least six million of them in Britain alone.

With the popularity of Facebook and MySpace based around the notion of online communities – representing everything from schools to workplaces – it is not surprising, says Burney, that online job sites are keen to get a slice of the action.

"All recruitment firms have an eye on the lucrative graduate market, but there is always a new challenge in terms of talking to young job-seekers via their own media as the latest trend emerges.

"I would be very surprised if all the top job sites were not already gauging how best to exploit the new social networks," he adds.

Employee-referral is big news in many City organisations – to the extent where a firm such as PwC takes on as many as a third of its new people via this method. But how do you make friends in accountancy or in hedge funds if you're a 21-year-old job seeker with no experience?

According to Burney, there are several ways in. Registering with a job site such as Monster or fish4jobs allows you to lodge your CV and pass through preliminary screening, but a more effective way in the long-term may be to forge links with potential colleagues.

"If you want to join the airline industry or become a journalist, say, and you want to circumvent the normal application process, you should first identify a pilots' or writers' forum.

"Once you have joined up and got yourself known to a few people, you can reveal your wish to join the industry and ask about the best ways in."

He adds that a third way may be to check out the backgrounds of the people who comprise your own online interest-based network or community and identify those with jobs that interest you.

"People tend to be very open about what they do and if, for example, you're hooked in with other people who are interested in Third World debt, it will be relatively easy to find how they make a living.

"Some of them may work for thriving not-for-profit organisations such as charities and may well know of internal vacancies coming up."

It's a view endorsed by Rory Ferguson, a director of the IT-specialist JM Recruitment Group.

"Among the top tier City employers, many of which already have very good graduate micro-sites of their own, extra coverage on social sites will be a win-win for both recruiters and graduates," he says.

"Job-seekers will not only be able to continue researching and applying to their target companies online, but will even have a chance to forge potentially important relationships with potential colleagues in the true spirit of networking."

Applying online for a job is increasingly popular with jobseekers, says onrec.com, especially among those "who want a quick and easy way to get their details in front of recruiters while maintaining a professional image."

A good example is David Kingston, a graduate in mechanical engineering from Nottingham Trent University. "I used Monster because I wanted the site to work for me when I was busy with my finals," he says. "I was already pretty IT-oriented, but to me online recruitment was just another tool. It took me under half an hour to register with a couple of sites and upload my CV and within a month, I had a permanent job."

But there are pitfalls. Just as candidates are discovering online networking, so too are employers and persistent rumours of job applicants being turned down as a result of social networking activity are gathering pace.

Says Burney: "We believe it may be the case that more determined firms are using security companies to 'hack into' social sites in order to find out more about potential job-seekers, but this is hard to prove.

"I would always advise graduates to present themselves on a social site just as carefully as they would on an employer's job site."

Top tips for online job hunting

'I've used Facebook to flag up recruitment events'

The internet is a great place to start when looking for graduate jobs; you can begin looking before you have finished your degree and get a head start.

Online recruitment sites often have a specialist section for graduates. Monster's own site (http://graduate.monster.co.uk) allows you to listen to podcasts, check out the graduate events calendar and participate in a graduate forum.

Once your CV is on an online recruitment site, it is exposed to hundreds of the biggest graduate recruiters in the country – much more efficient than applying in an ad hoc manner.

Take time drafting your CV. Make sure it covers all the points that demonstrate how you fit the job specification and use fresh, interesting language to describe yourself.

Highlight any relevant work experience on your CV. If you have done formal work placements, you may be more eligible for a more senior position.

Make sure any social networking page you have gives an appropriate representation.

Tom Braithwaite, 22, is a graduate trainee at Deloitte. A history and politics graduate from Oxford, he initially used the web to research likely employers and successfully applied online to join Deloitte's summer internship in 2006. He joined the firm permanently after graduating earlier this year.



"I've been a member of Facebook since my second year at university and I've used it on behalf of the firm; helping to flag up recruitment events for them back at Oxford. But when I was applying for my internship, the site was much less-known than it is now and using a social network to look around for a job wouldn't have been an obvious step for me.

I used the web to find out all about Deloitte before I applied to them and from then until the face-to-face interview stage, the whole thing was organised online. Unlike some other firms' web pages, their site was easy to navigate with drop-down toolbars and a dedicated section for graduates and this was very important to me.

The timed online psychometric test was OK, even though I hadn't done any maths since GCSE stage, and by the time I was called in to meet some Deloitte people, I felt I knew the company fairly well.

I found the web presence friendly and approachable and my initial impressions were borne out when I met the recruiters. I've been luckier than some of my friends."

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