According to a study conducted by social media monitoring service Reppler, 91% of employers use social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to screen prospective employees.
So, after a wild Saturday night party, you tweeted that you flicked beer mugs from a pub just for fun. As usual, your friends commented on it by saying, ‘Oh, no not again’ or ‘You are such a pro’ or ‘Wow, this is a hat trick’. All this will really amuse your friends, but sadly, your prospective employers won’t be impressed. They will look upon you as an individual who loves to con others, is a thief, can be a potential kleptomaniac, and has no remorse for his actions. The bottom line is, that your resume will be stashed at the very rock bottom of the rejected pile. Didn’t think your innocent post could cost you your dream job? Well, welcome to reality.
Today, when social media has become an integral part of our virtual existence, many employers are resorting to our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus accounts, and even personal websites and blogs to judge us. Even now, as you are reading this article, your prospective employer is probably crawling through all your social media accounts to gather more personal information that your resume will not divulge.
First of all, try to put your name in double quotes in Google search and see what results you get. If you yourself are not impressed by the search and image results, how will your employers be? You can also know about your social media influence and compare it with others using the ‘Klout score’. Now is the time to spring into some serious social media action and create a favorable online reputation. Your social media pages give away more information about your character and personality than you would ever imagine. Tweets or status updates about violence, controversies, racism, sexually explicit content, references to alcohol, drugs, swear words, and pornographic photos can deter your chances of landing a job at a good company. The key to achieving employment success through social media is that ‘don’t make public what is supposed to be private’. Want to know how social media can affect your employment opportunities with existing or prospective employers? Read this Buzzle article to find out.
Existence on Social Media
As I said earlier, your social media pages will go beyond your resume to talk about you. Now imagine, if you do not have profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, what will this communicate about you to your prospective employer? It will largely speak that you are a person who is not abreast with the latest trends in technology, and are not keen to keep up with the changing times. Hence, it is important that you exist virtually through the various pages of social media websites. However, ensure that you do not put content which will speak against you.
Posting classified information regarding your organization’s latest takeover, acquisition, etc., can land you in some serious trouble. Tweeting details of your company’s proposed layoff plan can make you their first victim. Not only will your existing company ax you, but this ‘blabber mouth’ behavior will go in your social media history causing prospective employers to drop your application in the ‘rejected’ bin. Many companies today have very stringent social media policies which do not allow their employees to post negative things about any aspect related to them. Hence, understand the professional social media etiquette before posting anything related to your company or its employees.
Gone are the days when the third-party agencies with companies would only limit the background scan to your educational qualification and previous employment records. Today, they also treat your social media pages as a credible platform to judge you. Even if you tweet for fun that ‘The only company I enjoy on weekends is Jack Daniels’ or ‘Ecstasy is what ecstasy does’, you will be seen as a frivolous person. In fact, there is a service called ‘FireMe’ which derives information about an employee from his recent Tweets. It also has a section called ‘Potential Killers’ which tracks people who tweet about murdering their bosses. Hence, it is important that you do not tweet or update status messages that will reflect you in the wrong light.
Create a Website or Blog
You can set yourself apart from the other candidates by starting a blog or creating a website about your industry. This will make you come across as a thorough professional and a knowledgeable person. If you have a good fan following, it will add value to your resume. If you are among the final two shortlisted candidates, your blog or website will help you to get an edge over the other. Also, don’t forget to share the link of your blog or website on all your social media websites and your resume. Try to give the blog your name; it will help when others are searching for you. However, only share your professional blog links. If it is a personal blog about your pet cat ‘Mr. Whiskers’, please don’t share it unless you are applying for a job at a veterinary clinic.
Undertake Scrutiny and Cleanup
It is important that you understand what your employers are looking for in your profile, so that you can try to bring about the necessary changes. Closely scrutinize all your social media accounts and ensure that there are no unsavory images of you on your profile or those tagged by your friends. Your half-naked photos for a dare can be funny to your friends but they will certainly bother your employers, especially when their goodwill is at stake. Also, try to look for your updates which portray you as a violent, sadistic, addicted, etc., person. Check the profile information on all your social media websites. Try to find out which videos you have updated on YouTube and Vine, and check your photos on Instagram, Flickr, Google Plus, etc. Now, promptly delete everything that is controversial and even ‘untag’ yourself from objectionable photos that will pose a threat to your online reputation, and ultimately to your job.
Update Your Profile
At all times, you need to have accurate and updated personal and professional information on social media websites. If you have not updated information about your last or current job, do that right away. Also, post your latest resume on LinkedIn, and use its contacts to get references for jobs. Add any of your newly-acquired knowledge and skills to your profile. If you have new accomplishments like an award or promotion, do not forget to mention it. Stale profiles can discourage prospective employers from considering you as a promising candidate. Also, ensure that everything from your ‘About me’ to your ‘Page likes’ promote that you are a trustworthy and diligent professional.
Try not to tweet or update statuses about controversial topics. Don’t show extremist views on social networking accounts, as you may come across as a very aggressive person. Avoid liking pages of serial killers, crime websites, sexually explicit websites, etc. If you have any embarrassing videos posted on YouTube by your friends, ask them to be removed right away. Also, if there are some ‘shady’ characters in your friend list try to ‘unfriend’ them. You don’t want to be associated with their behavior in any way. If you have photos of getting wasted at a party, or ‘funny’ photos of you picking up a gun, delete them immediately. Also, if you have blabbered your frustration about killing your boss or wishing he died a painful death, it is in your best interest to delete that post. Avoid anything that will put your name and controversy in the same sentence.
Online Interactions and Reputation Management
In order to use social media for your benefit, ensure that your online interactions project you as an expert in your field. This can be done by interacting on social media wisely. Take the example of LinkedIn-you can join various industry-related forums and special interest groups, and contribute to the discussions. This will portray you as a professional with excellent knowledge. Also, share posts with original and informational content. Similarly, try to tweet about your accomplishments. Even if you do any kind of social work, then tweeting about it will speak about your character. This trait will be highly appreciated by your employers. Being active on social networking websites and by strategically planning your posts, you can easily build and manage your online reputation.
Don’t Over-Post Information
People are often seen going overboard when it comes to giving personal information about themselves. Especially, highly personal information like relationship status, birth date with year, weird personal views, sexism, racism, sexual orientation, etc. Why do you want the world to know that you got divorced, you are in a complicated relationship, or have an open marriage? Avoid anything that gives too many unnecessary details about you, that your employer can certainly do without. The last thing you would want is for them to judge you based on your personal history.
Don’t Post Things that You Will Regret Later
Treat your social media pages like your family. If there are certain things that you will never be able to tell your family, why post about them on social media and make them public. If you observe a few accounts you will find that people have taken strategic steps to reflect their positive side and their good qualities. On the other hand, there are those accounts which speak largely of the lack of intellectual capability of their owners and even portray them as negative individuals. Companies like to protect themselves and their employees and won’t hire you if they think you pose a possible threat to their reputation. Hence, don’t post anything when you are drunk or out of your senses as you will definitely regret it later.
Haste is Waste
Another big gaffe that most employees commit is that they post information about getting selected by a company on their social networking websites as soon as they get a call that they have been selected. It will really not go down well with your new employer and he may find it difficult to trust you. You may even lose your job because of this. Imagine before getting an official confirmation from your new employers, if you post information about it, you will lose your current position at the existing job as well as the new one. So don’t indulge in such mindless social media updates.
Make Use of Privacy Settings
In all your social media accounts you have privacy settings which you should utilize to separate the access of your personal friends and colleagues. There may be a few pictures which are not meant for your boss to see and you would want to only share them with your friends. You can adjust the settings and customize the access. Similarly, your Twitter account can be seen only by people on your list if you change its settings. This will not allow your prospective employers to access it and judge you based on your silly tweets. You can also utilize free service of ‘Scrambls’ to have customizable control on your Facebook and Twitter accounts and for even managing their privacy.
Adding Colleagues to Your Facebook Account
Merely changing your privacy settings is not going to be good enough. You will really have to decide whether you want to add your colleagues to your social media pages. You run the risk of allowing them or your boss to get a direct view of your personal life. They will then take liberties to judge you based on your social media behavior, partying, personal life, clothes, attitude, etc. It is important that you guard your personal social media space and do not allow it to affect your career or future job opportunities.
Your social media accounts will mirror your personality. Not only will social media increase your chances of getting the perfect job, but it can also help you to make a favorable first impression. However, if you are not paying heed to what you are posting, you will end up sending strong negative signals. Remember, you are what you post, so don’t post and think later. Sometimes, people have two separate accounts for personal and professional use, but this can be confusing for them as well as the employers. Also, tagging your photos on your blog with the right keywords and optimizing it will help to gain maximum mileage out of it. Utilize Google Adwords to find more about these keywords. Now that you know how social media can affect your employment opportunities, utilize this platform optimally for landing your dream job.