Social media may be one of the best tools for job seekers

Experts say LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter open up new opportunities

ORLANDO, Fla. - Unemployment is one of the biggest problems our country is facing with the national unemployment rate at 7.8 percent and slightly lower in Central Florida at 7.7 percent.

More than 88,000 people in Central Florida are out of work. That means, to get an edge on everybody else, you have to change the way you look for jobs and social media may be one of your best tools.

New numbers show that more companies in Central Florida are hiring through social networking sites.

Preston Armfield, a business consultant in Tampa, used LinkedIn to land a job. The has been around for 10 years, and showcases your resume, references, and skills.

"You start connecting to people, just like any social media site," says Armfield.

Armfield found companies he wanted to work for, then contacted their hiring managers directly, through LinkedIn. In the end, it got him the spot that he was after.

"I think that it can change the way people look for jobs," says Armfield. "Even if 10 people e-mail the human resources manager, it's a lot easier to go through those than 3,000 resumes."

Over the last decade, LinkedIn has helped millions of job seekers by giving them immediate access to the people who hire.

"It will connect them directly with recruiters, connect them directly with managers," says Alysse Metzler, a recruiter at Electronic Arts, the video game company in Maitland.

Every day, she scours LinkedIn, trying to find the best people by searching for certain job titles, keywords and skills.

"I would say the biggest way I find my candidates is through social media," says Metzler.

She says that when you create your profile, have a professional picture, upload your resume, and be very specific about your skills -- listing what you can do, and what you've accomplished.

After that, search for companies you want to work for, then contact their hiring managers through the site.

"If you're not even branding yourself or making yourself accessible, how are we going to find you?" says Metzler.

"Years ago, it was just the newspaper. Today it's job boards, it's LinkedIn, it's Facebook, it's Twitter," says Roger Lear, the President of

The site just polled nearly 200 local companies, and almost one-third of them say they used social media in January to hire. That's up about 10 percent from the same time last year.

"Now a job seeker has so many different ways to find open jobs," says Lear.

Among those tools -- Facebook and Twitter.

Both sites let you look up the career pages of companies you want to work for, like Disney or Hilton. Many of them post or tweet their job openings every day. When you see one you like -- apply, then message those companies directly.

"Hey, I just applied for a graphic designer job or an engineering job, I'd like to know more about that," says Lear. "They are having a conversation with you, versus when you just send an application in."

Lear says that tourism, hospitality, and health care will have the most openings this year in Central Florida.

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