Main image of article How to Use Social Networks in Your Job Search
For tech professionals, connecting with recruiters and HR staffers on social media may seem like an effective way to search for a new job. But if you’re already employed, making those connections may broadcast your intentions to the folks in the HR department of your current job, who may scan social-media sites to see which employees are ready to jump ship. And then you’ll have some explaining to do. Nonetheless, with 92 percent of recruiters using social media to find quality candidates, you can’t afford to overlook the value of Facebook, Twitter, and other networks in your search. And though you can’t avoid risk altogether, there are some ways to use social media to find a new job without sounding an alarm.

Ramp Up Slowly

You’re bound to raise eyebrows if you go from zero to 500 contacts, change your titles and add new endorsements overnight, advised Jenny Foss, a job search strategist and creator of the JobJenny blog. Instead, stay below the proverbial radar by carefully ramping up your social media activity over a couple of months. “Slowly connect with key industry players, join relevant tech groups and post code samples,” Foss said. “Adding a constant stream of activities, updates and keywords to your online profiles will help recruiters find you without raising suspicions.”

Market Yourself as a Thought Leader

Attract the right kind of attention by marketing yourself as a thought leader, not a job seeker. Weigh in on technical forums and Tweet about best practices to showcase your expertise. Sharing salient content on social media allows you to solicit employment opportunities without directly asking for them. “Maintaining an online presence and positioning yourself as an expert can help you add connections before you need them,” advised Debra Feldman, an executive talent agent and job search consultant. If you want to limit your social media presence—not everyone loves Twitter, for example, or has the time to maintain an active account—you can also blog or create a personal Website. Recruiters will still find you because they use keywords to search the Web.

Make Your Updates Private

If you don’t want an employer to see your personal updates, you can set your social media profile to private. You can also turn off your activity broadcasts so your network isn’t notified of every little change while you work on your profile. At the same time, adjust your privacy settings to control who can see your activity feed and connections. If you’re using social networks to scour for jobs, make sure you do so from a personal device; when you reach out to a recruiter or HR staffer, you should use your personal email (or even an email address created specifically for the job search).

Connect Offline

While it’s okay to follow employers you want to work for, don’t reach out to them directly via social networks. Instead, use your phone or email, and reaffirm their commitment to confidentiality (especially if they reach out to you first). Expressing interest online or engaging in a conversation with a recruiter on social media is a sure way to get busted, especially if you're connected with your company or coworkers on social networks.

Drop Hints

Posting that you’re open to new opportunities on social media is bound to blow your cover. Camouflage your intentions by using a subtle, discreet call-to-action. “Mention that you’re open to discussing Java or another technology that you’re passionate about,” Foss said. “And provide a personal email address where people can contact you. It’s a discreet way to say that you’re open to exploring job opportunities without saying that you’re searching for a new job.”