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Her other three contacts got in touch with the people they knew inside the company, told them that she had interviewed for the position and also provided a recommendation.

That gave her some serious leverage.

Wilson said, "At the beginning of my second interview with the hiring manager, she stated that she had received a few e-mails from individuals stating that she should hire me. I responded that I had worked for a long time at Circuit City and during that time I had developed many contacts."

After that interview, she was confident she would land the position, and after a third interview she eventually did.

"I also used LinkedIn to research the three individuals I interviewed with. LinkedIn definitely helped me in landing this position -- of course the interviews helped as well," Wilson said.

Fewer Resumes, but More Focused

When Erik Werner was laid off the week before last Christmas from a videoconferencing manufacturer, he immediately turned to the social networking sites to get the news out, build up his network of contacts, research his target industry and gather job leads. He's now a senior engineer for a Washington, D.C., systems integrator, Facchina Global Services.

"By using the social tools I was able to shake a lot more network trees than I normally would have," Werner said. He was also laid off during the 2001 collapse, when these tools weren't available. Back then, he had to rely on the shotgun approach. "In 2001, I probably put out, over five months, 10 resumes a day," he said.

This time, he said, he probably sent only 20 to 30 resumes in total, but through use of the social networking tools he knew exactly where they were going.

"In this economy, there's a lot of people in the same position," he said. "So how do I stand out? I stand out through the personal interactions. I stand out through the very much more laser-focused" approach that includes asking a social contact to put him in touch with someone in a certain field or company.

He used Facebook to let his friends know he was laid off, which resulted in replies ranging from condolences to invitations to share his resume with contacts they knew. He used LinkedIn to put the word out to business contacts he had made over the years. That also resulted in offers to disseminate his resume. He made sure his LinkedIn information was up to date and everyone knew his e-mail and other pertinent information. He used Twitter mainly as a "listening post," keeping himself up to date on current events in his areas of interest.

He ended up getting hired by somebody he had done business with before. "Opportunities came to me, and then I was able to choose which opportunity I wanted to pursue," he said. "But the way the opportunities came to me was through my social networks."

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