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Why Your Social Media Accounts Matter When Applying for Jobs

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Chances are when you’re posting your latest Friday night Instagram picture, tweeting to a friend about a party down the street or recapping this weekend’s events on Facebook, you aren’t doing it with your future employer in mind. Yes, we’ve all been told to keep our social media profiles clean when we’re searching for jobs, but how many employers are really looking at your profiles and what are they looking for? We break down the good, the bad and the ugly in this post so you can make sure your social media accounts are ready for your first real world gig.

According to CareerBuilder’s annual social media survey, 60% of employers are using social media to research job candidates. That’s up 8% from last year. Assuming that trend continues, more and more employers will use social media for research. As more social media savvy millennials begin to take on management positions, it’s easy to see that this social media research isn’t going anywhere.

What can you do to make sure your profiles are real world ready? Part of it is making sure your profiles are clean, as 21% of employers who use social media to research candidates confess they’re searching for reasons not to hire the candidate. But there are other reasons, too — for example 30% of these employers are looking for what others have posted about a job candidate and 60% are looking for proof of qualifications for the job. While cleaning up your social media is important, making sure your friends’ posts with you in them are clean and posting things that show off your skills and experience is essential, too.

Social Media Clean Up

Many of these are no-brainers, but our tips wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include the basic things that you should remove from your profile. Here’s a list of the types of posts that employers don’t like to see:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information
  • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.
  • Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee
  • Poor communication skills
  • Bad spelling and grammar

We’re sure you’ve seen many of these categories before and know that even if a post is questionable, it’s best to remove it. However, did you know 25% of employers view selfies negatively? We’re not saying you have to remove every selfie you’ve ever taken, but if your social networks are consumed with selfies, you may want to consider removing a few — and making a new effort to either save the selfies for yourself or get a third party to take photos.

Speaking of photos — have you searched your tagged photos? If you type “photos of (insert your name here)” into the Facebook search bar, you’ll see a whole bunch of photos — many of which weren’t posted by you. Spend some time reviewing those photos, as regardless of how spotless your Facebook posts and privacy settings are, you aren’t in control of what others have posted. Find photos you don’t want employers to see? You can request that your tag be removed through Facebook, or ask the friend who posted it to remove the photo altogether (best option).

Let’s say you’ve been smart about what you’re posting on social media all along, or have spent serious time thoroughly cleaning up your accounts. Great! But have you spent time reviewing posts for spelling and grammatical errors? Have you neglected the difference between “your” and “you’re” in your social media posts? Chances are out of the categories that bother employers the most, this isn’t one you’ve spent a lot of time considering.

Social Media Clean Up: 66% of hiring managers who use social media to research candidates hold poor spelling and grammar against them.

Reality is a whopping 66% of hiring managers who use social media to research candidates hold poor spelling and grammar against them. So, while it may seem like misusing “there,” “their” and “they’re” isn’t a big deal compared to provocative or inappropriate photos, it’s definitely worth the investment of time to make sure your profiles show that you have a solid grasp of the English language. After all, regardless of what career path you choose, chances are you’ll be writing emails, if nothing else.

In addition to these, it’s worth noting in the midst of a presidential election year that one in six employers say political affiliation could be a negative. Many feel that their political affiliation is a part of whom they are, and that’s okay — but you may want to review or rethink some of your political rants as you review your social media accounts.

Seem like a lot of work? It can be if you haven’t given any thought to what you’ve posted on social media over the course of several years. Why not just delete all of your accounts when you’re starting your job search? That’s certainly an option, but it could cost you an interview. Over two in five employers say they’re less likely to have a candidate come in for an interview if they can’t find any information about them online.

Social Media Boost

The good news is while employers are doing their social media research, 32% of them are finding information that has caused them to hire a candidate. Yes, removing the negative posts are important, but it is equally as important to make sure you have social media posts that reinforce your skills, talents and experience.

Social Media Boost: 32% of them are finding information that has caused them to hire a candidate.

Here are a few things employers are finding that cause them to hire a candidate:

  • Candidate’s background information supported job qualifications
  • Candidate’s site conveyed a professional image
  • Candidate’s personality came across as a good fit with company culture
  • Candidate was well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests
  • Candidate had great communication skills

Keep in mind these are across all social media channels, not just LinkedIn. While LinkedIn is stereotypically used for showing off career skills and experience, employers are searching all social media channels to show a professional image and make a case for qualifications. Even if your profiles are private, profile pictures and cover photos are public. Do those photos convey a professional image and/or show your personality? Remember, while professionalism is important, employers are also looking for personality, so don’t be afraid to show it off. Having a clean, professional presence on social media doesn’t mean it has to be dry and boring.

How do these things translate? What can you post or include in your social media profiles that will help demonstrate your expertise? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Volunteer Experience — Have you done community service during your time in college with friends, on your own or as a part of a club or organization? If so, be sure to document the experience and post it.
  • Social Engagement — Are you involved in clubs and organizations outside of class? Better yet, have you taken on leadership positions in any of them? Make sure you share posts related to activities you do as a part of your clubs and organizations.
  • Professional Experience — Do you have an internship? Have you joined the student version of a professional society in your field? Do you participate in professional development activities? These are all things that show commitments to improving yourself for a professional career — don’t forget to include these things in your posts.
  • Portfolio — This will be relevant to some fields more than others. If you’re in design, photography and/or videography, have you created an album and/or posts to show off your work? This is something that can make a nice addition to Facebook photo albums, LinkedIn projects, Instagram posts and even a unique cover photo.
  • Professional Development — There are so many resources available online for people who want to learn — regardless of what field you’re in. Share some of this helpful information related to your field — whether it’s on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., it’s sure to garner notice.
  • Current Events — Are you interested in keeping up with current events? Many recruiters like seeing signs of people up to date with current events —it shows that you’re an engaged citizen. If you already like to keep up with the news, consider sharing some of it. Feel free to add your commentary, just beware of using profanity.

What to include in social media profiles to help demonstrate your expertise: volunteer experience, social engagement, professional experience, portfolio

In addition to making an effort to post these types of things on your social networks, another way you can make your social media channels work to your benefit is to engage with companies and professional organizations related to your field. Not only will this show initiative on your part, but it also gives you a bunch of new content to re-post. We’ve already reviewed how companies love to see these professional development type of posts, but engaging with companies is also a little something extra that could get you brownie points. Who knows, you might even learn something in the process.

While adding this content to all of your social media channels is important, if we had to prioritize one social network it would be LinkedIn — mostly because 89% of recruiters have reported hiring someone through LinkedIn. Given the significance of that number, we’ve included a list of some things you can do to enhance your LinkedIn profile — after all, your profile will appear 40 times more in search results if it’s complete.

Here are the fields you need to fill in to have a complete LinkedIn profile:

  • Your industry and location
  • An up-to-date current position (with a description) — Take your part-time job, internship or leadership role on campus that you currently have and include that as your current position. Use the description field to relate this position to a future career in your field. How is it preparing you? How does it relate?
  • Two past positions — Wondering how you can possibly have two past positions when you’re trying to land your first job? Don’t forget about part-time jobs, internships and leadership positions on campus — both count as experience.
  • Your education — Add your school and graduation year.
  • Your skills (minimum of 3) — While the minimum amount is three, you should be able to list many more than that. If you aren’t sure what to list, look up your dream job in your field and see what skills they are looking for that you have — start with those. This section should grow as your career continues.
  • A profile photo — Stay away from the selfies. Go for the closest thing you have to a professional headshot. (Have a friend with a nice camera? Have them take one for you.)
  • At least 50 connections — Make sure you fill out your photo and profile information before you start requesting connections, as connections will look at your profile and you want it to be up to date. Start by requesting professors, internship supervisors and fellow students — you’ll get to 50 in no time.

In addition to having a complete LinkedIn profile, you should also look into LinkedIn Publishing and SlideShare — both are a great way to display your skills without having to dedicate the time and effort into building your own website.

Social Media = Personal Brand

Social Media = Personal Brand

The majority of employers are specifically searching candidates’ social media accounts. If that wasn’t reason enough to make sure your accounts are clean and professional, consider your Google search results. Before inviting you to an interview, 80% of employers are typing your name into Google. Have you searched for yourself on Google? Unless you share a name with a famous person, often times your social media accounts are some of the first results Google shows. Make sure you’ve done your research before you start applying for jobs so you know what employers will find.

Don’t forget that online research is a two-way street. Only 18% of job seekers check out hiring managers on social media. Don’t forget that, much like an interview, this is your opportunity to do some research on your potential employer. Company culture is important and the reality is you aren’t going to fit in with every company culture, so do some of your own research to see if you think the company is a place that you would not only fit in, but thrive.

Taking on preparing your social media channels for the real world is something that never ends — 41% of employers research current employees on social media and more than a quarter of them have found something that has resulted in an employee being reprimanded or fired. Think of it as your own personal brand. While this may resonate more with you if you’re career goal is in business or marketing, it’s something that’s worth the effort.

Your personal brand is something you’ll rely on for new and exciting careers and adventures — you want to make sure you aren’t selling yourself short. Make sure you think with a filter before you post in the future, and are being sure to engage and add new skills and experience to your social media channels. You never know when a new career adventure may be coming your way.

While all of these tips are some of the ways you can prep your social media accounts for your career, Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer of CareerBuilder, offers some insight that is worth keeping in the back of your mind. She said “Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter.” When you review your social media accounts and Google your name, do you find a glimpse of yourself that shows employers who you are? If you do, then you’re all set.

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