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GET HIRED! How Social Media Can Work Against You (And For You) During A Job Search

Updated on June 5, 2012

GET HIRED! How Social Media Can Work Against You (And For You) During A Job Search

Social media sites have become so integrated into our daily lives that we scarcely give them much thought anymore. We make frequent updates to our Facebook status and or send daily tweets from our Twitter accounts. We sign up for business networking sites like LinkedIn and Tagged on a whim. We maintain blogs on Blogger and Tumblr that we fill with our rants and raves, our likes and dislikes.

In the modern world, most everyone maintains a personal presence on the internet in one way or another. We use the internet to find job openings and network with prospective employers, but many job applicants don’t realize how their social media pages can work against them, while others don’t take advantage of the opportunities that social media can provide.

HOW SOCIAL MEIDA CAN WORK AGAINST YOU: FACEBOOK

As a hiring manager, social media sites have become an important tool for me. I review over a hundred resumes for each job opening, and usually narrow the stack down to roughly five solid candidates, the rest end up in the “rejected” pile. But before I contact any of my solid candidates for to schedule an interview, I always do searches on Facebook, and inevitably, I find that they may not be such solid candidates after all.

Privacy Settings

There is one constant in the world of Facebook: change. Facebook changes it format, its interface and its privacy settings more often than most people change the batteries in their smoke detectors. It seems like every time I log on, something is different. Any time a change is made, it could potentially make some of your information accessible to outsiders. Most of the changes are annoying or extremely unnecessary, but it is important to keep up to date with them. If you have any potentially questionable content on your page, be sure that it’s only visible to friends, not to the general public.

Sometimes I hear grumblings from people about the fact that managers use social media to help make decisions about whether to hire someone. The argument goes something like this: “I should be judged solely on my resume and interview, what I put on my Facebook is my personal business, so it’s an invasion of my privacy for my employer to even look at my Facebook page.”

My answer to them: Grow up. And get real. Anything that you post on the internet is there for the entire world to see. And hiring the wrong employee can have significant HR and Legal implications for the company, so it’s little wonder that a hiring manager will seek out every bit of information possible before making any decisions. If we could sort through the garbage you leave on the curb every week, you can bet that we’d be doing that too. Unfortunately, who has the time?

Profile Picture

The first thing anyone sees when they search for your name on Facebook is your profile picture. After you land a job, you can change the photo to whatever you want , but while you are in the process of job searching, you are trying to catch the eye of potential employers – don’t catch their eye for the wrong reason. Be sure to update your profile with an appropriate picture. It doesn’t have to be a formal portrait, but it should be something that isn’t going to make a potential employer say “no thanks.”

I recommend avoiding pictures that depict political views, pictures that feature your latest tattoo or body piercing, or party photos showing the drunken debauchery of last weekend’s frat house kegger. And it probably goes without saying that you shouldn’t post a picture of you mooning the camera (yes, I’ve seen that one), at least not until you’ve accepted a job offer.

A few years ago, I identified a potential candidate from a stack of resumes, and checked out his Facebook page before setting up an interview. Initially, I didn’t see anything of note and was about to close the page and contact him when I took a second look at his profile picture, and that’s when it hit me: the young man with the smiling face in the photo was flashing a gang sign. No thanks -- No Interview.

Status/Wall Posts

Your Facebook status can change several times throughout the day, depending on what you want to say to the world. And any of your friends can post on your wall. If you are in the midst of a job search, make sure that your privacy settings make your status and wall posts visible only to your friends. If you don’t, everything on your page can be viewed by a potential employer.

If you post anything about your job search, you invite your friends to make comments. Everyone has friends that are boundary-challenged, a personality flaw made worse by the virtual anonymity of the internet. What if those comments were somehow disparaging of the interviewer or the company? What if a boundary challenged friend spouted racist, sexist or other intolerant language? Even if the words don’t come directly from you, you can be associated with them in the mind of a hiring manager.

There was a candidate that I interviewed one afternoon a few years back, and later that evening, I went to check his Facebook page. Sure enough, he had updated his status to talk about the interview he had. That post itself was nothing special but it opened the door for his friends to make comments.

Picture this exchange getting posted:

Joe Applicant: Had my interview today. It went well.

Friend John: Cool. Was it tough?

Joe Applicant: The guy asked a lot of hard questions.

Friend Suzy: Sounds like a jackass. Maybe he’ll hire you and you can take his job.

Joe Applicant: Yeah that would be cool.

If Joe Applicant wasn’t savvy enough to check his privacy settings and his hiring manager was able to find his way to his Facebook page, do you think he’d have much hope of receiving a job offer? Avoid discussing your job search in a public forum on your social media. Save it for after you’ve accepted a job offer.

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN WORK FOR YOU: LINKEDIN

I’ve started checking LinkedIn more recently. It’s a great site to use for business networking and to post your resume. The concerns about your Facebook account typically don’t apply, but there are 3 recommendations that I make for LinkedIn.

Start An Account

First and foremost, if you are in the midst of a job search, I highly recommend setting up an account. It’s free, and as more and more hiring managers use LinkedIn, not showing up in a search can possibly hurt.

A candidate who uses a site like LinkedIn demonstrates that he is serious about his career. A candidate who doesn’t use it, doesn’t.

Enhance Your Resume

One of the nicest things about using LinkedIn is that you can not only upload your resume, but you can expand on it. The 1 or 2 page limit that dictates the resume doesn’t apply to your online profile. Take the opportunity to give more detail about your responsibilities and your accomplishments. Expound upon the goals that you have achieved, the processes that you have improved and the efficiencies that you have gained. Remember, when you are job searching, you are selling yourself to a potential employer, so take advantage of the opportunities that you find.

Network, Network, Network

Once you get up and running, start networking. Make connections with the people that you know, and then move on to the people that they know. Build your network as large as you can because you never know when one of those new contacts may lead you to a job opportunity that is perfectly suited for you.

Join groups that relate to your industry and interests, and become active by asking pertinent questions and offering insightful answers to others. Peruse the Jobs section for possible leads for which you may want to apply.

When you apply for a job, search for the company and learn all you can. Make contact with employees of that company and ask questions about the business and industry. If you are contacted for an interview, do a search for the person who contacted you and take advantage of the unique opportunity to network with a key person who makes hiring decisions.

YOUR THOUGHTS?

Do you have any additional tips or experiences regarding social media and how it can impact your job search? Do you have any questions have that I can answer, or related topics that I may want to address in a future hub?

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    • NCHammerhead profile image
      Author

      NCHammerhead 6 years ago from Apex, NC

      I agree with you, Larry. I think the whole Facebook thing has gotten out of hand. It has become a virtual "free for all". My big pet peeve is people who posts photos of their dinner :)

    • profile image

      Larry Wall 6 years ago

      Why do people feel compel to put anything on Facebook. I have a page, but I have "friends", who send stuff to all their "friends" and I wind up with a lot of junk on my page. If you keep the page private and do not accept friends, what is the point of the whole thing.

    • NCHammerhead profile image
      Author

      NCHammerhead 6 years ago from Apex, NC

      thanks Lisa. Its amazing what people will post on their social media - I'm sure I've got a few things on my Facebook page that I need to remove before my next job search!

    • LisaMarie724 profile image

      Lisa Stover 6 years ago from Pittsburgh PA

      Wow, this is very informative. A good lesson for those who post their entire life on social media sites! I'd recommend that anyone looking for a job read this hub first.

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