Companies say that social media offers a great way to canvass "more candidates," while 33% say it's more cost-effective to conduct a job search via major social media websites. Sixty-three percent say social media is "better" than traditional print advertising to land the best employees.

"Social media is now a powerful recruitment tool for getting the right person in position faster and cheaper than traditional forms of advertising," says Kevin Forbes, chief executive at OilandGasPeople.com.

If you have posted some items online that you regret, and you want to scrub them away before embarking on a job hunt, take these steps right away:

Know where you stand. Search your name on Google ( GOOG), Yahoo! ( YHOO), or another Web search engine and see what pops up. Sign up for Google Alerts so you'll know when your name shows up on a social media site or industry message board.

Reach out and delete bad info. It's not uncommon for firms such as Facebook or Twitter to delete a post or picture upon request. You'll need to issue a formal request for removal -- deleting it yourself won't always work, as it may still show up on job search reviews conducted by diligent employers -- from a social media site. If you're persistent and diplomatic, you may have some luck in deleting a troublesome post. (Don't bother reaching out to the main Web search engine sites such as Google, though. They won't remove posts, as have no vested customer service interested in "reputation rehab.")

Don't close your social media accounts. Firms actually want you engaging online -- they just want to see the "positive" you and not the "negative" you. So go ahead and use social media, but never post anything online that you wouldn't want, say, your mother to see.

As U.S. companies increasingly rely on social media to vet job candidates, it's vital for you to make sure nothing shows up on a company's radar that costs you a job offer.

It's all about using the system to your advantage. A good online persona will get you a job offer, a bad one may keep you on the unemployment rolls for a long, long time.

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