For better or worse, social media is part of the hiring process. According to a 2020 survey, 45 percent of hiring managers and human resources professionals on Ivy Exec said they “always” check candidates’ social media profiles. With another 30 percent reporting they “sometimes” check, it’s clear that your virtual presence is too important to ignore.
Social media screenings, where companies review candidates’ profiles before advancing a candidacy or making an offer, are becoming more and more common. Another 2020 survey from The Harris Poll found that 70 percent of employers said they thought every company should screen profiles during this process.
Don’t be too concerned. If a company screens profiles, it doesn’t mean that they’re doing an exhaustive search with the goal of embarrassing you. “The three main platforms that most employers check are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I am personally most interested in the candidate’s LinkedIn profile, as it’s the most relevant,” Matt Erhard, a managing partner of Summit Search Group, explained.
What exactly are these social media screens for?
For the most part, hiring managers are looking for consistency, professionalism, and personality. For instance, 78 percent of employers said they expected their employees to keep their profiles appropriate for work. They want to get to know you on a personal and collegial level.
“When I check a candidate’s Facebook or Twitter, my aim is more to get a sense of them as a person than to look for damaging information,” Erhard continued.
So, when applying for a job, you should expect that the hiring committee will perform a social media screen. Here we’ll talk about red flags that hiring personnel don’t want to see before discussing the aspects that will make you stand out in a good way.
What Never to Do on Social Media
⛔ Complaining about an employer.
It’s a good rule of thumb to remember that you’ll never know who is looking at your social media. So, never complain about a position, a colleague, or a supervisor, even if you’re no longer in the position. This makes you look both unprofessional and petty, and your willingness to break confidentiality won’t be too appealing to future employers.
⛔ Post too often about your life, your mood, or other minor details.
Ever get tired of seeing the same person posting multiple times on social media? Well, hiring personnel does too. Posting too often makes it seem like you might act the same way in the workplace, and excessive posting can come across as self-involved at worst and unfocused at best.
Instead, aim to curate content that demonstrates restraint and curation.
⛔ Rant or share divisive opinions.
If you support a position or a political party, it’s fine to post on social media, but recognize that certain positions may not be appealing in certain types of fields or industries. However, always avoid rants or rambles. Sharing your beliefs is one thing, but intentionally antagonizing won’t go over well with hiring committees deciding if you’ll fit well into their team.
⛔ Delete your accounts.
If you had a few years where you posted less-than-professional photos, your impulse might be to delete your social media entirely. But this can be a red flag for employers, too. If you don’t have social media, they might wonder why you haven’t entered the digital age, or they might even think you’re hiding something.
If you’re really concerned, you can prune your accounts, but don’t delete them altogether.
What Makes You Look Good on Social Media
When you’re up for a position you are interested in, you’re likely to be on your best behavior and start posting regularly online. But ideally, don’t just start posting regularly because you’re up for a job. Rather, post regularly years before you start job-hunting – and continue even after you’ve landed one.
If you’re overwhelmed by the process of posting on LinkedIn all the time, consider planning your content early using one of these social media management tools.
✅ A professional, up-to-date headshot.
Likely the most important part of any candidate’s social media is their profile photos. While you might not want a professional photo on less-formal channels, you certainly want one on LinkedIn. Still, you want to choose high-quality, sophisticated photos for your other channels as well, just in case.
In fact, blurry or low-quality photos were dealbreakers for some of the hiring managers Ivy Exec interviewed. Sixty percent said “personal presentation” online might make them think twice about a candidate they’d liked before.
✅ Keep your profiles consistent across platforms.
Certainly, Instagram has a different purpose than LinkedIn. But that doesn’t mean you should come across as a completely different person from one platform to the next! That means that you should think about your personal brand – in other words, who you are as both a person and a professional – and how you want to convey those online.
✅ Post and share about trends in your field.
If you write articles or have ideas, you can certainly share them on LinkedIn. But Twitter is also a great platform to share articles about your field, comment on new developments, and start conversations with others.
Preparing for Social Media Screenings
For any particular job, you don’t know if hiring personnel will screen your social media. But always act as they might be. This means that actively posting and maintaining your personal brand is an important part of your job search. Once you get in the habit, though, continue developing your channels even while you’re in your current role. That way, your social media can help you grow your network in preparation for your next role.
Don’t let one silly social media mistake ruin your chance of getting your dream job. Behave responsibly online and keep up a professional appearance at all times.
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