Discover how to use social media to your advantage during your graduate job search…

Your online profile is now more important than ever. An incredible 95% of graduate employers featuring in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers for 2015/16 used social media in their recruitment activity, while smaller companies are increasingly likely to advertise their vacancies only across their social platforms.

Despite this, jobseekers are failing to capitalise. Indeed, the University of Leeds' Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey in 2013/14 found that just 3% of UK graduates secured their job via social media.

'You should use social media to follow the employers that you want to work for. Companies often advertise graduate opportunities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and source new talent via web searches. Use these resources to your professional advantage, as a way of staying informed, raising your profile and networking with recruiters,' advises Lena Bauchop, careers development adviser at the University of Stirling.

How can social media help you to find a job?

Jane Challinor, careers information manager at The University of Edinburgh, argues that social media provides graduates with an unparalleled opportunity to build a strong profile that attracts recruiters. 'When used responsibly to create and promote your own personal brand, social media can reap rewards,' she adds. Optimise your presence by using a consistent username and image across your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. You should also highlight your location and the type of work that you're looking for.

Once your profiles are perfected, engage with relevant companies and build your network. Barrie Grey, careers resources and market intelligence coordinator at the University of Leeds, recommends that you follow graduate recruiters and keep abreast of their news, events and vacancies. You could even interact with individual employees; this'll allow you to gain valuable insight into their career paths and the company's culture.

Katie Finnimore, careers information assistant at the University of Essex, points out that intelligently sharing and commenting on content can greatly strengthen your chances. 'One of our students actively engaged with the university on Twitter,' she continues. 'The university was able to see how the student engaged with their followers, liked their approach and consequently offered them a paid opportunity to manage the university's social media accounts over the summer.'

When you manage to land an interview, social media can boost your prospects. Rachel Jones, also careers information assistant at the University of Essex, recommends that you research the company, your interviewers and the hiring process using social media channels. 'This allows you to be better prepared, and therefore gives you a better chance of making a good impression,' she summarises.

How important is your online reputation?

Managing your online reputation is vital. You should always keep your language and tone professional, and never post anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing with an employer. Katie says that your photos, content and comments can indicate your values - and therefore your fit with a company's culture. It can also prove or disprove claims that you've made in your CV or during an interview.

Research by Jobvite found that more than 50% of employers viewed candidates' social media profiles before making a job offer - with the majority of these recruiters subsequently reconsidering their decision. 'References to illegal drugs, alcohol and firearms were likely to count against the candidate, and evidence of specific skills and experience in their favour,' adds Jane. 'Your social media presence could be projecting an image that might make an employer think twice.'

Further social media guidance is available at your university's careers service. The University of Leeds, for example, offers 'LinkedIn Labs' that help students to create their profile and network, as well as providing a list of key recruiters for students to follow on Twitter.

Top tips for using Facebook

  • Create two profiles - Research suggests that recruiters are now using Facebook to search for prospective employees in the same way that they use LinkedIn. It's therefore worth having two profiles - one personal and one professional, with the former being your private space.
  • Provide detail - Your professional profile should offer employers a comprehensive insight into what you can offer them. 'To increase your chances of being scouted, add details of your education, work experience and skills to your profile, and make sure that you include appropriate keywords,' Jane suggests.
  • Get involved - You should join relevant groups, and 'like' the companies that you're interested in. 'Some will encourage you to post questions,' says Jane. 'That can be a good way to establish a relationship as well as increase your understanding of the company and sector.'

Top tips for using LinkedIn

  • Be comprehensive - Research shows that a profile with a photo is seven times more likely to be viewed, so upload a professional picture. You can also maximise your chances of being headhunted by writing a profile and summary that includes keywords.
  • Build your network - By connecting to at least 50 contacts, you'll increase your chances of getting in touch with the right people and organisations in your industry. 'Connect with friends, family, peers who may be future company leaders and individual employees within organisations of interest,' recommends Rachel.
  • Join relevant groups - Connect with users by joining groups and following employers. This can also help you to keep abreast of industry news and make like-minded or influential connections.
  • Gather recommendations and endorsements - These will boost the strength of your profile. To collect recommendations, get in touch with colleagues, acquaintances, past and present employers and current or former lecturers.
  • Apply for jobs - You can set up job alerts and apply directly through LinkedIn. Rachel adds that, even if unsuccessful, you can leave a good impression. 'You might not have the email address of the person who interviewed you, but the chances are you can find them on LinkedIn and send them a polite thank-you,' she says.

Top tips for using Twitter

  • Follow accounts - Following relevant companies will help you to get a better feel for their brand, so find accounts that are influential in your chosen industry - they'll keep you up-to-date on the latest news and help you to make like-minded connections. 'Twitter is a fantastic tool for improving students' commercial awareness and graduate job market knowledge,' confirms Barrie.
  • Search for opportunities - Make use of Twitter's search tool using specific keywords and hashtags. General terms such as #jobsearch work well, and Twitter's popularity in the media and internet, marketing, advertising and PR, and charity and voluntary work sectors make more specific searches worthwhile too.
  • Get involved - Tweet about work experience, reply to posts from other people regarding related topics and retweet posts from relevant accounts. 'Develop a positive digital footprint by commenting on key issues affecting the industry that you wish to work in,' Barrie advises.