The impact of social media on todayʼs job search environment is significant compared to say 2-3 years ago, particularly when it comes the amount of information available for potential employers to "review" prior to selecting candidates.

Reversely, the availability of information on the web also makes it easy for potential employees to do research people before interviews. I can tell you that I have definitely done that for interview preparation. Furthermore, my first instinct when considering business relationships, is to Google someone and see what comes up. For a lot of companies these days, this is something that is frequently done before hiring anybody as an employee, consultant, or contractor.

Anyone can easily find personal information about anyone else simply by doing a Google search. Social media has increased the proliferation of photos, personal stories, information about religious and political point-of-views, as well as sexual orientation and relationship status, things that a company are forbidden to ask, people make widely available on the internet for free.

So what can you do to ensure that you manage your reputation, particularly if you are looking for work? Google yourself!

Go to Google and enter your first and last name in quotes, for example: "Andi Fisher" - this will narrow the results and only give you those two words (in this case, names) together rather than pulling up anything with either just Andi or just Fisher (plus those with both Andi and Fisher).  

What comes up?  Clean up whatever needs to be cleaned up, including old profiles you may have created months or years ago and then abandoned.  Think about your tagging strategy for Facebook if you are in a lot of pictures, are they appropriate?  Do you have a personal blog? Is the content appropriate for your profession?

Now what if you Google yourself and there isn't much there? No worries...start building up your numbers by creating accounts on some social media networks, particularly LinkedIn if you are looking for a job.  Post articles or comment on professional forums in your industry.  Start a blog.  This can be done slowly over time. This is an easier "problem" to fix than say your name was headlined in your college newspaper after you were arrested for hazing, or something like that!

Now that you are aware of what your results are, make sure that you Google yourself on a monthly basis.  Do an audit on yourself and your reputation. safeguard it and protect it for future employment, business or personal opportunities.

Although there are those who say that Twitter is a good tool for job hunting, the majority of people, including myself, would argue that hands down, the most efficient and effective social media tool for job hunting is LinkedIn.

This tool is not only a fantastic professional networking platform, but also it has a great jobs listing area. So if you have found yourself recently unemployed, fear that you may be soon, or are considering leaving your current job on your fruition, you should have a LinkedIn profile.

Key things to do:

1. Complete your profile. Fill out as much as you possibly can.  Stuck on what to say or how to say it? Use the LinkedIn search tool to find other people with similar background and see how they did theirs! Make sure you create a user-friendly public profile url that you can add to your resume and cover letter.

2. Add connections.  Go through your professional and personal email lists and invite as many people as makes sense to invite. You can save your email contacts into a .csv file (most email programs will do that) and import it into LinkedIn. Or you can enter them manually.  Think of a message that you want to include with the invite. LinkedIn provides a standard invite, but make it more personal by adding more information.

3. Get recommendations. Once you starting getting connections, take a look and see who may be a good candidate for getting a recommendation.  It can be a former boss, colleague, employee, vendor, you name it.  Written recommendations are a thing of the past, LinkedIn profiles are much more effective.  Word of caution, don't send out a whole bunch of requests at once.  Spread them out by requesting a couple a day otherwise LinkedIn will think you are spamming.

4. Join Groups.  Search the groups area for groups in your area of expertise/job experience/interest. You can do a key word search and get a list of groups. Take a look and join ones that you think will be beneficial to you. You will be then be in contact with people within your industry who are sharing resources and discussion topics.  You may find a job connection there. 

5. Answer questions. There are a lot of people within the LinkedIn network who are looking for answers to questions or who are seeking resource information.  Do a search on your area of expertise/job experience/interest and see what types of questions people are asking.  Can you answer any of them? If you can, this is a great way to gain exposure and raise your credibility within your field.  You might also just find someone who may hire you for that expertise.

6. Search Jobs. Finally, LinkedIn has a great jobs search area.  Last year when I was looking for a new full time job, I used a paid service that was supposed to be exclusive.  However 2 of the 3 jobs that I eventually interviewed for I found on LinkedIn (even though they did show up the paid service too). The jobs are good qualified jobs by companies who believe is a good place to find good people.  In addition to the jobs within the LinkedIn network, there is also a consolidation of jobs from engines. Simply click on the tab labeled "The Web" after you search on job titles and you will also see additional jobs from these engines.

By following these steps you will be armed and ready to go!