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What started as a teenage time waster has grown to an entity all its own – social media. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others have expanded their reach from the “tweens” to the grown-ups. These phenomena are impacting job search and employment in whole new ways – some good and some bad.

Of all job search methods, networking has always been – and will probably always remain – the most effective method of getting a new job. The reason is simple: people hire people. Hiring has always been a people-centric endeavor and despite the implications of technology, it remains so. Companies look to employee referrals first as potential hires because they generally make better employees. Current employees are generally hesitant to recommend someone to management for hire if that person is not truly qualified because it will reflect poorly on the employee; thus, companies know the quality of referred candidates will tend to be better.

While job sites have made it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to access huge pools of candidates at the stroke of a few keys, digging down to really good candidates can be difficult. It is also difficult for job seekers to get through the huge crowd of other candidates in the job site database and make it to the interview. We constantly hear the lament “If I could just talk to someone, I know I could get the job!”

Social media and networking sites may make “talking to someone” a little easier and more direct for job seekers. One of the best is LinkedIn, a professional site that is used extensively by people seeking to establish an online profile that can be used for job search, business development, and self-marketing. Recruiters use LinkedIn extensively to “head hunt” candidates.

Unfortunately, many people do not consider the fact that employers and potential employers also monitor social networking sites. Be very careful what you post on your Facebook or MySpace page and tweet on Twitter, because it is very possible your employer will find it. If you are looking for a job, be aware that a Google search and a search on social networking sites is now commonly part of the screening process for new hires. What you post will speak volumes about you, much more so than anything your references could say.

Your photos are also fair game. Have something posted from last year’s Cinco de Mayo party that is not very flattering? You may want to consider removing it. Your employer may not think you a good candidate for a promotion and new employers may find it a reason to pass over you in the hiring process.