Over the course of the last couple of decades, social media has radically changed the way companies hire and fire personnel. It is now not only possible, but likely to get and lose a job via a social media platform.
Before you engage in an official job search, take the time to clean up your social media accounts, in advance, to increase the likelihood of being hired. Basic etiquette and manners should be observed in all written and photographic content on your social media sites prior to beginning the hunt for a job. CEOs, recruiters, hiring managers and other company personnel will be viewing your social media accounts. Make certain that your online social media presence reflects positively on your character and abilities to avoid missing out on great employment opportunities.
The most vital rule to remember when posting anything to your social media platforms is that the moment you send that image or those words out into the digital universe, they can never be taken back or erased. Even things that you believe you have deleted, or are buried far back in the history of your feed, can be resurrected via simple searches, the saves and reposts of others, and even by virtue of shared connections you may not realize you have with company personnel. The pictures on your social media platforms say a lot about you. Potential employers are almost certainly going to review your social media platforms before offering you a position, and, if the story told by the photographs you have chosen to make public is an unseemly one, you could lose the job of your dreams before you ever get the chance to prepare for your interview.
Avoid posting anything you would not want defining you in the eyes of an interested employer. For example, do not post photos of:
Obviously, pictures wherein you are engaged in illicit or illegal behavior should never occur, but even what you may deem to be smaller infractions, such as a video of you speeding on a motorcycle, can make you look reckless, and have longstanding consequences related to your job search. A momentary, angry Twitter tweet can look like a susceptibility to aggression. A bikini photo on Instagram can challenge company policy regarding employees’ public self-presentation.
Remember that if they are bothering to look you up, employers are seriously considering you for a position. This means that your social media profiles must represent their values as much as your own.
It is not merely the uploaded photos on your social media accounts that you need to be concerned with when you are engaged in a job search. Very often, your profile picture is the very first visual image a hiring manager or upper-level influencer will have to associate with you. Your profile photo can inadvertently become your mascot in a hiring situation. Make sure the avatar representing you is a good one!
Profile photos should be very much like professional headshots. There should be no excessive skin showing, clothing should be simple and clean, you should be smiling and the overall vibe should be one of positivity and competence. Never have a profile photo that displays:
You want your profile photo to speak well of you, and to show what you really look like. For this reason, profile photos should not contain filters, and should be shot fairly tight, roughly from your mid-chest and up. Full-body shots are acceptable, so long as there is a clear view of your face, you are alone in the photograph and you are appropriately dressed.
If you are the sort of person who posts to your social media accounts regularly, you need to keep constant vigilance on your settings. Even though some accounts are set to “private,” this term means different things on different platforms, and it may be possible for hiring managers to view your content more easily than you think. Facebook, in particular, changes its privacy settings rather frequently. You could be exposing sensitive information about yourself to job recruiters without even realizing it, or believing yourself to be protected where you are not. The best policy is simply not to post things that are in any way questionable or that could be misconstrued.
It may be in your best interest to open anonymous accounts if you feel that you need a place to vent online, though it is never professionally safe to aggressively vent about prior employers, as even anonymous accounts can be linked to you with little effort. You do not want potential employers to have the impression from the discovery of a masked account that you are a shady character who goes to extreme lengths to share harsh opinions, because they will immediately believe you would do the same to them if the professional relationship soured.
There is a multitude of ways in which you can utilize your social media accounts as professional tools, rather than personal liabilities, during your job search. One useful aspect of social media can be as a means of researching your potential employers. Most companies have some sort of online presence; take a look at company policies, codes of ethics and overall values on the company’s own social media platforms so that you can sound savvier and informed when you speak to a company representative about a job.
In a tech-driven company, you can even keep a watch on the company’s social media site to stay updated about current projects, changing laws within the industry and even upper management shifts. Information is power, and the more information you can gather about the company for which you wish to work, the greater the likelihood that you will find a way to fit in there.
Another major advantage in utilizing social media throughout the job search comes when you use social media to showcase your professional skills, projects and aptitudes. Instead of posting pictures of your drunken weekend in Las Vegas, get in the habit of posting weekly blog-like updates of your art, inventions, writings, athletic challenges, educational accolades or community service. Learn to make the social media you engage in about capturing your best professional and personal accomplishments, values and ethics.
A final step you might take in preparing your social media accounts for your job search is to contact the social media account managers for the companies in which you are truly interested, and asking them to help you tailor your account to company values. Nearly all modern companies have someone on staff for the express purpose of managing the company’s social media presence. Reach out to this person, and ask for his or her help and guidance in aligning your online presence with that of the company.
Make sure to repost important bulletins from the companies in which you are interested, give a shout-out to new projects or employees and generally show your online support. When – and if – CEOs view your profile, they will see that you already have a vested interest in the company, and the ability to represent the company – respectably – online.