More job-seekers, employers using Facebook connections to fill vacancies

Gracie Bonds Staples

Courtesy of MCT Campus

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

His senior year at Clark Atlanta University was quickly approaching, and Kareem Taylor was starting to worry about his future.

Would he be able to land a job as a voice actor or would he end up back home with his parents like so many other college graduates? Better still, how could he let people know he had “the” voice? Not having prior experience or a network to draw from, Taylor turned to the only contacts he had readily available to him, his Facebook friends.

“I decided to post a demo on Facebook, asking people to share it with their friends,” Taylor said recently.

In that moment, Taylor joined an ever-growing number of college students and employers who are using social media networks in the search for jobs and job candidates.

In fact, according to a 2012 Future Trends Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 90.7 percent of respondents used Facebook in their job search.

Given the near-universal status of Facebook, which recently announced the launch of Graph Search to enhance users’ ability to navigate their connections, the study said, “it is expected that if a student were to think of using a social network in the job search, that student would first turn to the base social networking platform to see what it offered.” Students are also turning to LinkedIn (40 percent) and Twitter (about 35 percent).

“LinkedIn, as a business networking platform, is clearly challenging Facebook for pre-eminent status among students as the networking platform to communicate with potential employers,” the study said.

Although nearly 66 percent of LinkedIn users felt that the service was effective compared to less than a quarter of users of other networking platforms, Taylor credits Facebook for helping him land employment with CNN.

Once he posted his demo on his Facebook page, Taylor said it caught the attention of CNN producer Danya Levine, who was already a Facebook friend. Levine invited him to the station, where he met her team.

“The head honcho said, ‘Let’s hear something,’” Taylor recalled. “I did something about CNN, and the whole room applauded.” For the next few weeks, Taylor shadowed members of Levine’s team, editing tapes, meeting producers and learning everything at his disposal about the voice-over industry.

Meanwhile, Taylor continued his job search, but “no one was calling me back,” he said.

Then just months before graduation in August 2010, he got the call he’d been waiting for.

“Congratulations, you’re the voice of ‘CNN Heroes,’” Levine told him.

“I was ecstatic,” Taylor said. “I’m so blessed to have this opportunity. It was a huge turning point.” Since then, Taylor has worked on the productions “Black in America” and “Pictures Don’t Lie.” Today, at 24, he’s one of the youngest and most successful professional voice actors, with clients including Comedy Central, Taco Bell and AT&T.

Shonda Cooper, lead promotions producer for CNN’s “Black in America” documentary, couldn’t say how often the television network uses social networking sites in its hiring.

She said, however, that Taylor “came highly regarded by colleagues at ‘CNN Heroes.’” “He made a positive impression on all of us,” Cooper said. “In addition to having a really good, deep, persuasive voice, he takes directions well.” Taylor has been the voice of “Black in America” for the past two years, Cooper said.

With its new Graph Search, which is being rolled out in waves, officials at Facebook are hoping to make it even easier for users to find the right job match. Graph Search, they say, promises not only to help you find others but to learn more about them and make connections instantly.

With this feature, users will be able to narrow their search to something as specific as “friends of my friends who work in the restaurant industry” or “my friends in Los Angeles who are looking for baby sitters” or “people/my friends who are reporters and live in Seattle.” Although Graph Search hadn’t launched when Taylor began his job search, he said Facebook clearly helped him get noticed.

Soon after CNN hired him, Taylor said his agent “dragged me to New York,” where he records from home then emails the file to his boss.

“A day later,” he said, “those promos start airing on CNN, and my mom will call and ask if that’s me she’s hearing.”