LinkedIn is a social media site that should now be a key part of each and everyone`s job hunt, whether for a first job or for something that will further develop a career.

A site of purely business connections, where the only interest from other users is business, it multiplies countless times the number of people that can be made aware of and potentially aid, the search for a job.

Just signing up for LinkedIn is a good first step, but there are several additional measures that can be taken to maximise the site`s potential.

First and foremost, a key thing to do is to complete as many profile options as possible. The more that is known about current and former jobs, the more chance of someone liking something they see and taking a chance based on it.

A second and crucial step is to reach out to as many current and past colleagues as possible, particularly those still working in the career fields that are of interest. Hunting for a job can be a numbers game and the more people aware of a job hunt, particularly when they may be in a position to help either by spotting an appropriate job or by personal recommendation, the better. There is no stigma in being upfront about wanting or needing a new job, whatever the reason behind it. There is now an option for status updates on the site, which gives further opportunity for job hunters to alert their contacts and potentially a wider network, about the fact they are on the lookout for a new post.

LinkedIn also offers an option to feature personal recommendations by former employers or clients. Having features such as this on an account will be one of the things that makes it stand out from potentially hundreds or thousands of similar ones and anyone job hunting should think hard about who could usefully vouch for professional and personal qualities on their behalf. The more senior the person making the recommendation the better, for obvious reasons.

For more personalised searching or to target prospective companies, there are many search options available on LinkedIn, including searching by skill and searching for companies and/or individuals within a preferred postcode. Combining two or more of these searches could potentially identify, for example, companies with a matching skill set or job opportunities in a desired location.

Another useful feature of LinkedIn is the company profiles that reveal a lot of information about the nature and form of the company, but also about the previous jobs of people working there currently. These can be a mine of information for anyone trying to work out how to get into a particular company, or what would be needed to change careers.

Read LinkedIn’s help files and terms of service. In particular, don’t be tempted to put your job title (or target job or contact information, for instance) in the ‘Name’ field of your profile in an attempt to get higher in search results. It will result in LinkedIn restricting your account or locking it if someone flags up this transgression. You can, however, put your letters, such as John Smith, PhD. For further information see the LinkedIn Help Center.

One final tip, particularly as the UK news is full of the on-going recession and the impact on jobs, is to get started with LinkedIn before a new job is needed, so that the connections and tools are already there when the day comes that you want or need to put them into use.