I've been trying to figure out the best way of approaching this topic here, as I know that it's an important tool for job seekers, but I'm a bit of an "outlier" in terms of my own job search. According to "conventional wisdom" one should figure out what specific companies one would like to work for, and then drill down into those to find the "decision makers" and network one's way to contacts with those individuals. Well, I can't narrow down what job (out of well over a dozen for which I'm a plausible hire) I'm looking for, so focusing on any particular company is a bit of a stretch for me.
Anyway, every job seeker should get themselves set up on LinkedIn, which is the "professional's social media vehicle". LinkedIn is all about business, and it's one of the fastest ways to get to people at specific companies. I primarily use it for a networking follow-up: I meet somebody at an event, get their card, and go home and look them up on LinkedIn and send an invite for them to "join my network".
LinkedIn is a bit like a "six degrees of separation" game, as everybody gets ranked by their connections, from a "1st" (where they know you), to a "2nd" (where both they and you know somebody), to a "3rd" (where folks you know have contacts with folks they know), or "out of your network". Typically, coming back from a networking event, I'll find most of the people I've met are either "3rd degree" contacts (obviously, they and I both knew about the organization hosting the event, providing those levels of connection) or "out of network", and being able to "collapse" that down to a 1st degree connection opens up a whole new group of people.
One of the features in LinkedIn which is also very useful for the job search is the "recommendations". These are where people you've worked with write something about you from their perspective. I understand that these have become very popular with hiring managers to check out candidates. One tip that I also read was that one should have at least one recommendation for every hundred connections, otherwise it looks like "nobody likes you"! I've not found LinkedIn particularly "flexible" with these, however, as I've wanted to shift around my resume (combining the two phases, LLC and Inc., of my last employer into one entry) on the site, but I can't seem to do that without "losing" one of my recommendations (which are linked to the specific entries).
Again, for those who are able to identify specific companies, there's a lot of potential research that one can do via LinkedIn. For example, the company at which I was interviewing last week (and I have my fingers crossed that I'll be called back in for the next round in January!) has, according to their LinkedIn profile, 200-500 employees, of which 333 are on LinkedIn. It lists current employees in one's network, former employees in one's network, new hires (useful to see what they've been adding), recent promotions, and "popular profiles" (what other folks have been checking out). In addition there's a significant amount of background information on most companies (similar to the free parts of Hoovers).
Aside from this, there's an ever-growing universe of Groups which are another way of connecting with specific sets of folks, although my experience has been that these are more often used for self-serving near-spam than useful discussion!
As I noted, I'm not the "poster boy" for efficient LinkedIn usage, so I've pulled together a few links for you to read what "the experts" are saying about using LinkedIn in one's job search:
I had hoped to have had another "Monday author interview" up today, but I'm still waiting on various authors to respond to my interview requests, so figured I'd get this posted now, and if any of those emails come in, add the book info later in the week.