By now you’ve heard the warnings: Employers are looking at your social media profiles, so it’s important to clean up your act. That means taking down those drunken college photos, deleting any unfortunate Facebook fights and rethinking your “likes.” You might even consider disappearing from social media altogether during your job search to prevent any unfortunate information from ruining your chances.
By Andrea Weiner
But according to some experts, not having any presence on social media at all is just as bad as having a negative image. Most employers assume that everyone is involved with social media to some extent, and if you’re untraceable, an employer may see that as suspicious.
So what is a jobseeker to do? How do you straddle the fine line between being authentic and reaping the rewards of social media while also creating the right impression for potential employers? The trick is knowing what employers are looking for when they peruse your profiles.
Strut Your Stuff on Social Media
Unfortunately, social media have developed somewhat of a bad reputation, thanks to posts of inappropriate photos, too much information and drama in general. However, social media sites are the perfect platforms for showcasing your positive qualities and achievements — and back up the information that you’ve included on your resume.
For example, if your resume touts your commitment to volunteerism, let your Facebook page serve as evidence of that commitment. Post photos from projects or events, like the organization that you support and share status updates or news items related to your work.
Social media sites are great for sharing your achievements and hobbies. Did you win an award at work? Toot your own horn! Not only will your friends congratulate you on your achievement, potential employers will see it and be impressed. But don’t focus only on career achievements. If you meet a goal, such as reducing your time on your evening run, crossing something off of your bucket list or tackling a major project, post about it. You’ll demonstrate your commitment to your goals and willingness to work hard, which are attractive qualities to employers.
Your social media profile can also be a place to share your knowledge and passion for your industry. By liking and following industry-related resources, such as professional organizations, journals and networking groups, you’re demonstrating that you’re interested in developments in your industry. Making thoughtful comments on posts or news items also shows that commitment and serves as a demonstration to employers that you can interact with others professionally. Even if it’s just sharing links with friends or answering questions for them – “Hey, you could check here for the latest on the information technology job outlook,” you’re indicating to employers you’re able to work with others and have your finger on the pulse of the industry.
More Than a List of Achievements
Employers aren’t just looking for proof of the claims on your resume or for evidence that you’re not a party animal who will show up to work hung over every morning. Many employers look at social media profiles to get an idea of an applicant’s personality and whether they would be a good fit. A small study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that many employers look at applicants’ status updates — including the content and frequency of updates — as well as photos and interactions with others to find red flags. Respondents noted frequent mood swings, a tendency to lash out or attack others online and infrequent conversations with others are often indicators to employers that an applicant could be emotionally unstable or too introverted to be a good fit.
What that means for you is that you should keep your social media posts generally positive, avoiding emotional outbursts, arguments or too many complaints. Make an attempt to interact with others in a friendly way, and keep disagreements private. You want to create the image of someone who is pleasant to be around and will be a positive contributor to the team — not a drain on everyone else’s time and emotional resources.
Knowing that employers are looking at your social media profiles and what they are looking for can help you create an image that’s consistent with the one that you present on your resume and in interviews. So while you’re busily checking for those unfortunate photos from spring break ’04, take some time to add some positive things to your profile and increase your chances of landing a job.
About the Author: Andrea Weiner is a career coach and consultant who enjoys working with recent graduates and career changers to help them follow their passions and create careers that they love. A former IT “geek,” Andrea is especially interested in how technology can aid the job hunt.
What social media tools are you using in your job search? Share in the comments down below.