Gone are the days when handing out paper résumés to potential employers was the main way — and sometimes the only way — to land a job.

Nor is it the only way to get noticed by recruiters.

With the explosion of social media in recent years, the Internet can be your best friend in your job hunt.

Walking into a business and handing a résumé to the appropriate person may not be as common today as it once was, but it still may work. However, online social media gives job seekers a number of other avenues to both apply for jobs and get themselves noticed by potential employers.

Because of this, being professional on social media sites is crucial, especially when you're seeking employment. And that encompasses not only your specific use of social media in looking for and applying for jobs, but also in terms of your personal use of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and others.

Never doubt that companies use social media to get more information about job applicants. If you're looking to become a civilian police officer, you can bank on your social media accounts being a part of your background investigation.

A few things to keep in mind when using social media in a job search:

■ Always treat your profile as if potential employers are looking at it. Keep it professional. Start with a professional photo and information that highlights your best qualities and has the best chance of capturing the attention of a company that's looking to hire.

■ Adjust your privacy settings appropriately. Being out there in the open may sometimes leave you vulnerable to people to whom you don't necessarily want to advertise personal information.

■ Be a little picky about who you choose to friend and or what you choose to share on your personal social media accounts. People can learn quite a bit about you from the friends you connect with, the pages you follow and the comments you "like" or "share." Be mindful that a company may take notice of your behavior on social media.

Social media can be a helpful tool when looking for employment — but if you're not careful, it also could cost you more than you realize.

In my next column, I'll talk about some specific social media tools to help you find a job.

Steven Maieli is the founder of TransitioningVeteran.com, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans' issues at www.transitioningveteran.com/wordpress. Send questions and comments to tacticalveteran@militarytimes.com.