Avoid Social Media Pitfalls in the Job Search

More than 73% of U.S. adults use social networks, and by 2016 the number could reach 4.3 billion, according to Radicati Group Inc., a market research firm. Employers have taken a liking to the popularity of social media, including platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Why? Social media introduces a new dimension to the recruitment world — it allows them to see a more personal side of candidates. Social media is also a valuable tool for job-seekers, but it can also present pitfalls.

Being too public – Job hunters often fail to consider just how public they’re being with their lives. Employers have even been hiring firms specifically to dig up information on job candidates through social media. A Jobvite Job Seeker National Study in 2014 shows that as many as 93% of employers investigate candidates on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Hiring managers were reported to change their hiring opinions 42% of the time after viewing the social profiles of candidates. That alone is a reason to review your profile.

Employers might, of course, like what they find. If your content is non-offensive and your connections suggest that you have a strong network in your field, your social media presence is likely to be an advantage. Professional candidates, for example, could communicate to employers that they’re right for the opportunity by filling their social media accounts with pictures of themselves volunteering and contributing to their communities. A picture of the candidate winning an award is another example of an appropriate social media share.

The “taboo” content – Job seekers are best off keeping their updates free of political or religious content, profanity and allusions to drinking, drug use or illegal activities. Any content that could be insulting to other people, including current or former employers, is off-limits. A positive, neutral stream of updates might seem boring, but it gives potential employers little to hold against you. Well before you send out the first resume, scrub your accounts of any material that employers could find objectionable. At the very least, adjust your privacy settings so that your content can only be viewed by certain people, though a particularly curious employer might find a workaround.

I can just delete my accounts, right? Because of the scrutiny, job seekers might be tempted to delete their social media accounts, at least temporarily. But that’s probably not a good idea. Employers increasingly view people with no social media presence as “suspicious.” They worry that applicants have deleted their accounts because they contained red flags. Psychologists consider use of Facebook and similar sites as a sign of being well-adjusted in the modern world. Employers might consider a complete absence from social media to be a signal of dysfunction.

It isn’t all bad news – social media gives job seekers a new way to communicate and connect with employers, and the information that candidates put forward can be helpful in how a potential employer may view them. The safest route is to keep your social networking content tidy at all times. In the modern economy, employees never know when they’ll be on the job market again looking for a new opportunity. Be sure to put your best foot forward in your social media accounts.

About Charlotte Weeks - Executive Career Coach / Executive Resume Writer / Outplacement Consultant

Prior to founding Weeks Career Services, Inc. Charlotte Weeks worked in human resources at a national association, where she experienced the hiring process from the other side. She's also the past president of The National Resume Writers' Association (The NRWA). Charlotte specializes in providing C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CMO, etc.), association executives, executive directors and senior-level professionals (director, VP, SVP, etc.) with comprehensive career coaching services and high-ROI resumes. She is author of "I Want a Job in an Association -- Now What?? A Guide to Getting a Job in a Professional Association, Membership Organization, or Society" and featured author of "101 Great Ways to Enhance Your Career." Additional book contributions include "The Twitter Job Search Guide," "Resumes That Pop!," and "Step-by-Step Cover Letters." As an internationally-recognized expert, Charlotte provides programs and documents tailored to each individual’s needs. To ensure that each person is given the highest quality of attention and service, Charlotte works with a limited number of new clients each month.
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