Like or hate it, your social media profiles are an extension of your resume. Roughly 80% of recruiters and hiring managers use social media to look for and vet job candidates, making it extremely important to have a professional presence on the Internet.
“Hiring managers are reviewing social media pages to become educated about the background and brand the person is articulating and to look for red flags,” says Alan Weatherbee, senior vice president of talent search for Allison+Partners. “They aren’t using it to find ways not to hire someone who is qualified but to make sure they present themselves in an accurate way.”
According to employment experts, job seekers have to make sure their social media pages, whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, mesh with what they are saying on their resume or in their cover letter. After all, no one is going to hire someone who claims to be head of marketing in their resume when their Facebook page is full of complaints about their job answering phones at an advertising company.
Equally important is the type of content you post, the pages you like, and the comments you make online. Even the people you associate with on social media can hurt your prospects. That’s why Janet Elkin, Chief Executive of workplace staffing company Supplemental Healthcare, says you want to make sure your social media pages are void of any political comments, inflammatory messages or anything else that might offend the person who could hold your future in their hands. “People, when they are job searching, have gone as far as changing their name on their profile,” says Elkin. “You have to realize that everything you put out there is a reflection of you.”
According to Paul McDonald, senior executive director at staffing company Robert Half, it behooves you to clean up your social media profiles before you start sending out your resume in mass. The first step, he says, is to see what’s out there by running a search of your name in all of the popular search engines. “If there are negative items, work to take them down,” says McDonald. “You can untag yourself in Facebook photos or ask a website administrator to remove a post. If there’s something you can’t remove, be prepared to explain it in an interview.”
While social media presents a lot of opportunities to hurt your chances of landing a job, it can also be a great way to showcase yourself, your knowledge and your expertise. Even if you are fresh out of college, it’s a good idea to start a profile on LinkedIn and to reach out to people in the field you are aiming to launch a career in to build you network. Professionals and non-professionals should use their social media pages to build their personal brand by posting content that is relevant to the industry they are in or want to be in. It’s also a great way to highlight any leadership experience you have, even if it’s volunteer work or through a school organization.
It doesn’t mean you can’t post personal pictures of yourself out having a cocktail or walking your dog, you just want to make sure you meld professional type commentary in as well. “Sharing things pertinent or related to their business shows recruiters this is a person who is really interested, invested and passionate,” says Weatherbee. “It can take a candidate who seemed interesting to Wow [status],” he says.
When building your brand online, Laura Poisson, senior vice president with ClearRock Inc., the executive coaching and outplacement firm, says recommendations you get from people can carry clout. After all, you want to be able to back up your expertise and a great way to do that is to get recommendations from people actually in that industry. She says it’s also a good idea to join groups within social media that are relevant to your industry and to follow companies and causes that matter to your line of work or where you want to be working. “The more data you have to support the message you are trying to get out” the better, says Poisson.
McDonald says a great way to tackle building your brand on social media is to think of how you can expand your profile, particularly on professional social networks like LinkedIn, beyond what is in your resume. For instance you can post summaries or pictures of projects you worked on, a short bio that describes your skills, interests and volunteer work, and articles that showcase your knowledge of the industry. “The Internet enables you to build your personal brand and make connections that may lead to job opportunities,” says McDonald. “A resume just lists accomplishments, but the personal brand you build online can offer more insight into your perspectives, skills and interests.”