Today, I spoke to Patricia Hunt Sinacole, an HR expert who runs First Beacon Group LLC and is also columnist for The Boston Globe. In this interview, Patricia talks about how job seekers can become more employable, what retail marketing strategies work in a job hunt, why companies should limit social media use at work and more.

What are some ways that a job seeker can work on their employability?

There are many ways a job seeker can improve their chances of landing a new job. Job seekers should evaluate their current educational level. In 2009, the unemployment rate for college grads has been about half of the national average. Job seekers should think about growth industries. There are some industries that have demonstrated resilience during this economic downturn. Recent reports released in the fall of 2009 suggest that the following sectors added jobs from October, 2009 to November, 2009: Professional, Scientific and Business Services. Administrative, Support and Waste Management Services also added jobs as did employers in the Temporary Help.

Employers representing Education and Health Services also saw modest increases in job growth. Keeping an active network is also important for all of us but especially important for those looking for a new opportunity. Having a healthy professional network of contacts is key. Connect with colleagues, friends and neighbors. Be respectful of their time but pick their brain on ideas, contacts and their “grapevine.” Join LinkedIn. Re-connect with alumni associations. A strong and supportive network is important for mental health too.

What would you tell a job seeker that has been out of work for more than eight months?

This is a very difficult economy. There are signs that the job market is improving. Hold yourself accountable. Set specific networking goals. Never say no to an introduction. Understand (in advance) that rejection is often part of the search process in this employment market. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. Word of mouth and referrals are still the best source of job leads and job offers.

What retail marketing strategies can job seekers adopt to help sell themselves?

  1. First, advertising — a job seeker’s resume is a sort of advertisement. A resume should be concise, crisp and error-free. A good resume does not need to outline every detail about a job seeker’s professional work history – much like an advertisement. It should provide a compelling overview. The resume’s “job” is to land the job seeker an interview, not provide every detail.
  2. Like a strong retailer, word-of-mouth is essential to a successful job search. Referrals are critically important for both a retailer and a job seeker. Think about how many times we all have shared information about a retailer – good or bad.
  3. Lastly, retailers often are successful because they have a competitive edge. They might offer an extra benefit – a drive-through in a particular location, wide and well-light aisles or an amazing level of personalized service. This is similar for job seekers as well. How can a job seeker differentiate themselves from their competitors? Maybe it is a specialized knowledge or industry experience? Or a former manager who provides a glowing reference and recommendation? Or an advanced degree, that may not be required but is preferred? Job seekers should give thought to highlighting their competitive edge.

Should companies limit the use of social networking in the workplace?

Yes, most companies should limit the use of social networking sites in the workplace. An employee is paid to add value to the company, not check out new photos online of their best friend’s cat. Unless the use of social networking tools is an integral part of an employee’s role, the sites should only be used on a very limited basis. We are receiving more inquiries from clients on how to address and limit the use of social networking in the workplace.

Can you name your biggest accomplishment in 2009 and what your goals are for 2010?

Our greatest accomplishment in 2009 has been how we solidified our relationships with our both our long-term and new clients. We have had a very strong year in a very difficult economic client. Our solid relationships with clients, our strong work ethic and our fair and authentic approach to providing best in class HR service have been our competitive edge.

Our goals for 2010 are the following:

  1. Continue to offer best in class HR services on an as-needed basis.
  2. Partner with a top-notch benefits brokerage firm to offer additional services to our clients. Many of our clients are overwhelmed with the complexity around healthcare, benefits plan design and the costs associated with such offerings. Having a strong and experience benefits broker is important to many of our clients.
  3. Balancing it all.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is a seasoned HR professional with more than 20 years of experience in technology, financial services, biotech and medical devices. Her company is called First Beacon Group LLC.  She works well with entrepreneurial and/or venture-backed firms. She’s also a Job Doc columnist in the Careers section of the Boston Globe, as well as facilitator of BostonWorks live chats.