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For employers, Social Networking 101

For job-seeking students, social networking is important in shaping their perception of a company. But leading experts who spoke to co-op and alumni employers on campus on Wednesday said it still ranks below face-to-face conversations students have with friends and classmates who have real-world experience with top employers.

“Even a freshman who has never been on co-op knows about an employer, if not firsthand then definitely from a friend or classmate who has gone through that experience,” Maria Stein, Northeastern’s director of career services, told employers and human-resources professionals from top companies throughout the country in a roundtable on best practices and recruiting.

“Our population is different from what you will find at other schools,” she added. “The co-op experience sets our students apart.”

The program began with a presentation by an official with Universum, an employer branding company that surveys students from hundreds of colleges about their career goals and impressions of some of the world’s top employers. More than 1,000 Northeastern students are surveyed each year.

“Northeastern students want to be leaders, they want to be entrepreneurial and they want to have an international career,” concluded Universum official Karl-Johan Hasselström.

He said Northeastern students buck national trends, which indicate that students in general favor careers that offer job security and a strong work-life balance.

Students, he added, are turning more and more to less official channels to learn more about a potential employer: Rather than log on to a company’s website, they are far more likely to ask a friend or peruse social networks such as Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn.

Nancy Richmond, the president of VirtualCareerAdvice.com and a lecturer in the College of Professional Studies who teaches online courses on social networking and organizational communications, said employers could take advantage of that new trend by providing information over social networks.

She said Google Hangouts, low-key video chats that can engage up to 10 people at once and be broadcast to much larger audiences, provide information about a company and how to apply for positions within the organization.

“What’s cool about using a Hangout is how you can share your screen and show a candidate how they could apply for a job or learn more about the company,” said Google recruiter Jeff Moore, speaking from a prerecorded Hangout with Richmond. “Then you could have a hiring manager drop in and give more information. It’s really a versatile tool where you can show a lot of information about your company in one informal platform.”

In his introductory remarks, Bruce Ronkin, the university’s vice provost for undergraduate education, expressed hope that the discussion would bolster the strong ties between Northeastern and the companies that employ its co-op students and alumni

“This wouldn’t work without the employers,” he said.