Job Seekers And Social Media

Q: I’m a recent college grad who’s looking for my first real job. I know companies are looking at my online presence, but I don’t know what they’re looking for. What can I do to make my online presence an asset?

A: There’s no question that employers are using social media more often both to screen and to hire potential candidates. A recent study by The Muse shows that 92% of companies are using social media to actively look for candidates. On a more negative note though, 54% of recruiters admit they have excluded candidates after viewing their social media profiles. In every industry, what the internet has to say about you matters.

However, there’s no one way to build an online presence to land a job. Many of the details depend upon your industry, experience level and the type of company you’re targeting. There are some general guidelines that should help every job seeker, though. Let’s take a look at some dos and don’ts for managing your online presence.

1.) Don’t contradict your resume

Complaining about work on Facebook is pretty common. If you’ve had a rough day, it can be helpful to come home and let off some steam blasting your “stupid boss” and the “terrible project” you slapped together at the last minute. If that boss is a reference, or if that project is an accomplishment you list on your resume, think before you post. Similarly, if you’ve got a claim on your resume that’s a bit of an embellishment, make sure there’s nothing in your profile that contradicts it.

2.) Do stay current in your field

Professional social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+ are a great place to start building a positive online presence. Remember that LinkedIn isn’t like most social media sites. No one is reading your LinkedIn profile to see updates about your personal life or to wish you happy birthday. Your LinkedIn audience wants to know what you know about your field. You can demonstrate that you’re staying current or developing knowledge within an emerging subject.

Share articles from professional publications and associations. Participate in discussions about them with others in your field. Not only can you show off your chops, but it’s also a great way to build connections with other professionals.

3.) Don’t show off your wild side

Most employers won’t find anything disturbing about a picture with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, but screen your pictures very carefully for signs of hard partying. 78% of recruiters say they’ve disqualified candidates because of pictures showing illegal drug use and 67% have done so for posts that are sexual in nature. Go through your pictures carefully to make sure nothing from your “wilder days” could give an employer the wrong idea about you. While you’re there, check your privacy settings on personal social media sites like Facebook. It’s a good idea to control the image you present as much as possible.

4.) Do let your network know you’re looking

One of your best sources for potential job leads will be friends and family. Letting them know you’re looking for work can prompt them to share leads and put you in contact with folks looking to hire. Of 800 companies surveyed in a recent study, 94% of them use or plan to use social media to recruit new employees. You won’t be able to get involved if no one knows you’re looking.

Of particular note should be friends and connections employed at companies you’re watching. These people may be privy to job openings before the general public. They can also let you know who the real decision-makers are and explain the application process in more detail. This inside intel can help you custom-tailor an application to get the best chances at the position.

5.) Don’t sound desperate

Most social media sites have lines for employer and occupation. Avoid getting desperate with these fields. If you’ve heard the adage, “Dress for the job you want,” it fits well to the social media world. Give yourself the title you want. If you see yourself in sales, call yourself a salesperson. If you want to work in analytics, give yourself an analyst title. If you’re looking to add a diverse set of skills to a company, summarize your contributions with a title like “communication expert” or “data nerd.”

As far as company, don’t be afraid to refer to yourself as “self-employed.” It’s important to account for your time unemployed, and no employer will be impressed if all you did was sit around filling out job applications. Doing some work that is related to your career choice is an excellent way to build your skills while you look for something more permanent.

6.) Do target companies on social media

“Liking” companies on social media can be a great way to stay up to date on news and information about them. If you’re targeting these companies in your job search, this serves two benefits. First, it might let you know about job openings (or the possibility to create one for yourself) at the company. If they’re launching a new product line or opening a new office, they’ll likely be doing some hiring, so it may be a good time to write a quick letter to the responsible decision-makers.

Second, it’ll really help you out in the interview, not just with that company but in the whole field. You’ll get a chance to know how this company sells itself to its customers. You will be able to identify what makes it unique and where it claims to be the best. This information will really help you craft convincing cover letters and answer tough interview questions.