In a recent survey of over 300 employers, a whopping 91 percent said they use social media to screen job applicants. Even more telling is that the majority of those same employers used Facebook, specifically, to check out potential employees during the hiring process.

The role of Facebook in your job search is not limited to employers screening you for suitability. Facebook can also be used to spread the word that you’re looking for a job and to connect with brands and companies you’re interested in working for. You can even use Facebook proactively to search for specific jobs and get help from your friends who have some connection to those positions.

Here are four effective ways you can use Facebook and the power of social media to help you find a job or change careers.

1. Clean Up Your Profile

Since so many employers are using Facebook to screen potential employees, spend some time cleaning up your Facebook profile to make sure it reflects a professional image of you. Remove potentially embarrassing photos or status updates and untag yourself from images you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.

If you simply must hang on to those photos of you partying in college or being silly with your friends, adjust your Facebook privacy settings so that only trusted friends can access that personal content. Be mindful of the updates you post when you’re in job search mode, particularly if you’ve already had an interview with a prospective employer. It’s possible that the employer will be paying special attention to your updates after an interview to gauge your reaction and to search for any information that might influence his or her hiring decision.

2. Network with Friends

A good job search strategy always includes networking with as many people as possible so that they can look for job opportunities on your behalf. Facebook is designed for you to stay in touch with friends so use this to your advantage in your job search.

Consider posting updates from time to time where you specifically ask your friends if they’ve heard of job openings you’re qualified for. If they don’t know what types of jobs you’re interested in, tell them on Facebook or post links to a personal blog or an online resume where you explain exactly what you’re looking for. It also will help your job search if you reciprocate with other friends who may be looking for a job and send them any job leads you come across.

Remember that the more you interact with other people on Facebook, the more likely your activities will show up on your friends’ Facebook Tickers. Stay active, get the word out and more people will be in a position to help you find that job you’re looking for.

3. Interact with Company Pages

Companies on Facebook are very eager for you to interact with their Facebook Pages. Why? Just as in the previous example, the more a brand interacts with you, the more likely its updates will be featured in your News feed and Ticker.

Leverage this fact and proactively engage with brands and companies you’re interested in working with. Comment on status updates, share links with your network and you’ll likely find yourself on the marketing radar of the companies you’re targeting. If you get direct interaction from a brand on its Facebook Page and if the conditions are appropriate, ask about employment opportunities outright.

You may be pleasantly surprised with the results. After all, some companies like the one pictured above, have created entire Facebook Pages dedicated to finding and hiring employees. Interacting with a company right from its Facebook Page is a creative way to stand out from your competition. It can also be a great way to feel out the business to see if it’s a good fit for you.

4. Use a Job Search App

Facebook has partnered with a number of software developers to provide Facebook apps for everything from interactive news to social shopping. And yes, when it comes to job search on Facebook, there’s an app for that.

BranchOut, which bills itself as “the largest professional network on Facebook” is an app that leverages the connections between your Facebook friends and the companies you’re interested in. When you install the BranchOut app on Facebook, you can invite your existing Facebook friends to join your professional network on BranchOut. Then, when you use BranchOut to search for specific jobs (it claims to have over 3 million jobs in its network) the application automatically tells you how your friends are connected with that job.

Using the image above as an example, a search for “social media” jobs resulted in 182 matches and one of those matches has six “Inside Connections” with the searcher. By clicking on any of the six profile pictures of those connections, you can see exactly how that person is connected to that particular job. It could be that one of your BranchOut connections works at the company, or perhaps one of those connections is friends with someone who is doing the hiring. You can then use BranchOut’s built-in tools to ask for things like introductions, endorsements and more. These features that can help you get an inside track at the company you might otherwise not have had.

Personal referrals, even those based on second or third tier connections, can be the edge that gets your foot in the door when you’re looking for a job or changing careers. Facebook, with its immense size and reach puts the world to work for you, making your job search easier and much more effective.

Have you use Facebook in your job search? Have you used Facebook to vet potential employees? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

[Source: All Twitter; Image Credits: Howard Lake, Tim Parkinson, Ed Yourdon]