All the cool kids are using social media for their job search. 

If you’re unemployed, it’s easy to feel desperate. So what really works and what doesn’t when it comes to job searching?

The first and most important tool you'll need in this competitive job market is a fine-tuned and professional resume. Never apply for a job with an outdated, substandard document. There are friends, family, coworkers, and services to help you get this essential marketing tool up to speed.

The second thing that might assist you in your job search is doing research on the current job trends, noting what skills are most desired in your chosen career, and amplifying them throughout your cover letter and resume. Focus should be on how to stay competitive in this fierce job market.     

According to a poll conducted by career consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison, nearly half of job seekers use social networking sites on a daily basis in search of connections and open job positions.

According to Senior Vice President of Lee Hecht Harrison, Greg Simpson, “Social media is an increasingly important tool in a job-search strategy. Job seekers must understand how hiring managers and recruiters are using social media in all phases of the selection process.”

A survey conducted this year disclosed on CareerBuilder.com's blog Hiring Site, that about 52 percent of employers use social networking sites to browse and screen potential employees, up from 39 percent in 2013. These are employers that already have what they need to determine if a candidate is qualified - a resume and cover letter followed by an interview. So what are employers doing on the social network sites?

CareerBuilder’s Matt Tarpey concluded that contrary “to what some job seekers may believe, employers are mostly looking for positives. Sixty percent say they’re looking for information that backs up the candidate’s qualifications, and 56 percent say they want to see if the candidate has a professional online persona…. However, 21 percent admit that they are, in fact, looking for reasons not to hire a candidate."

Up to 35 percent of employers request "friendship" status of their prospects, and many are being denied permission, which could look mighty suspicious to those employers trying to get more personal information on employees who have applied with them. Infringement? Perhaps, but it is reality. So if you're applying to many different positions, it might be time to clean up your online act.

Have you applied these learnings to your personal branding strategy and checked out your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages lately? Most of these personal and friend connection sites really shouldn't be available to a potential employer.  A big percentage of profiles and posts contain strong opinions on controversial topics, politics, and may include late night inappropriate photos.  Unless you're looking for a job in a bar, protecting those sites from a potential employer's radar just might be the smartest move you can make for your career and job chances.

Not many can top the hero of the job market - LinkedIn. This site not only promotes your skills, talents, career background, and resume; potential employers use it extensively to search for candidates. It offers a big wide world of networking, offers a multitude of job search benefits, and proves its strength in the job market through a plethora of success stories - confirming that this is a successful and professional social networking site- perfect for your personal branding strategy.

Despite the unemployment rates declining, reaching record lows in October 2015 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market has become more rigorous for the seeker. It is still a highly competitive employment market, with employers seeking to minimize their labor expenditures by hiring and training employees who are qualified, professional, and who plan to stay a while. That could explain their extensive social media background checks on candidates, while that doesn't make it right, you can be proactive to ensure you are using these sites to your advantage.  

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