There’s no doubt that having an active social media presence can be vital for your job search. But if you also use social media for personal reasons, it can be a balancing act to maintain your own online life without jeopardizing your job search. With recruiters in mind, you could make yourself crazy every time you log into a social media site: Should you post those pictures of last weekend’s party? Should you make comments that reveal your religious or political affiliations? Let’s face it, the freedom you feel to interact with friends or family members can be severely restricted if you believe recruiters or hiring managers could be listening in.
Rather than allowing your job search to overtake your personal online life, consider setting some boundaries to keep your personal and professional lives separate. “Even if you are not actively on the job market, your digital identity and activity can still be found through social searches,” says Courtney Hunt, founder of the Social Media in Organizations Community and principal of Renaissance Strategic Solutions. “Therefore, it’s in your best interests to establish a strong positive digital presence and monitor and manage it regularly.”
Hunt admits her approach is conservative, but she recommends using Facebook strictly for personal contacts and reserving LinkedIn for professional interactions. However, more and more recruiters are expecting access to job seekers’ Facebook profiles. Here are a few of Hunt’s tips for maintaining your personal life online without negatively affecting your job search.
1. Check your settings. “Make sure your security settings are set to maximize the protection of your privacy,” Hunt says. “But continue to operate on the assumption that anything you or your friends share could become public knowledge.”
2. Keep your actions in check. “Remember your friends are potentially part of your professional network, in addition to being part of your personal network,” Hunt says. “If you plan to ask for their help, think about the impression your status updates and other Facebook activity may be conveying before you share.”
3. Use Facebook for research. “Like the relevant pages of organizations you’re interested in working for, and pay attention to their posts,” Hunt says. “They can tell you a lot about the culture of the organization, in addition to providing information and news that could come handy in a cover letter or interview.”
4. Don’t mix personal and professional. Rather than accepting friend requests from recruiters or other employees at organizations you’re interviewing with, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn, Hunt recommends.
5. Don’t provide access to your Facebook account. “If a potential employer asks you for your login credentials, politely inform them that doing so is against Facebook’s terms of service,” she says. “Though it may be well intentioned, this practice is inappropriate.” As an alternative to asking for login credentials, some employers have begun asking candidates to log into their Facebook accounts during an interview and review their activity with them, but Hunt says this approach is just as inappropriate, “particularly because it exposes the activity of friends and family without their knowledge or consent,” she says.
For more information and advice about protecting your social identity, read Hunt’s white paper, Social Screening: Candidates and Employers Beware.