Using social networks for a job search is smart. What if you want to keep your search confidential? Can you use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter then?

The good news is that all these networks have the option of private communication between contacts, so use them.

LinkedIn is especially great for confidential searches because, apart from the Q&A boards where people ask for help with jobs, there’s no public place to “announce” your intentions. Certainly, don’t ask for help finding a job anywhere public. LinkedIn is more for professional contacts and industry connections, not for daily updates, so that’s helpful. Use the messages method for asking people for meetings or introductions. Find jobs on LinkedIn or other job boards, and use your network to find 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connections to the specific employer. No one needs to know who you are contacting; there’s not really a way for that information to be public anyway.

One client was leery of even signing up for LinkedIn. However, she realized that it is a network created for all kinds of professional networking, and was prepared with an answer for her boss if ever asked about why she was on LinkedIn. She joined some of the groups focused on her industry, and that served two purposes: getting her into a larger network, and giving her access to information and trends in her industry. She was able to use some of that information to benefit her current work. By the way, other people from her work are on LinkedIn and no one has yet to ask her why she’s on it. The real question these days is: why aren’t you on LinkedIn? or Plaxo, or some other social networking app.

Facebook can be a little more challenging with its more public updates and wall postings. However, you can use the message option to ask people to respect your confidentiality. You also can set greater privacy settings on your Facebook account so your info is only visible to your friends. If your boss is a friend, then Facebook may not be the best option for you. Invite your Facebook connections to become LinkedIn contacts, instead.

Twitter has the DM option for private communications. Also, you can protect your updates so they can be viewed only by people you approve as followers. That would allow you to tweet about your job search. I’d have to check but I think even with protected updates, people can see who you follow. If you follow a lot of job sites/coaches, it might raise some eyebrows. One option is to create a second Twitter account specifically for the purpose of following job search sites, using a different name and avatar.