Whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, social media has become a vital tool in the job search.
Every job seeker needs to have an online presence, but experts caution to always maintain your personal and professional brand through your online image.
“Since it’s an extension of your physical presence, it can shape perceptions of you that are real or otherwise,” says Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi’s Women & Co. Just like you engage with others in the physical world, you should put your best foot forward in the virtual world as well.
“It’s a two-way conversation when it comes to finding the right talent,” says Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor. “Every job seeker needs to understand that the same way you are researching a company, they are researching you.”
Online profiles give employers a sense of how well a candidate might fit in and whether their displayed background information aligns with their professional qualifications, according to Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder.com.
She says one-third of hiring managers report they’ve found content on social media that made them more likely to hire a candidate, and 23% found something that directly led to a job offer.
Here’s how experts suggest using social media to increase your chances of getting hired:
Interact With the Company
“Stay active on your social pages to increase your visibility and the likelihood that recruiters can find you,” says Owen Sweeney, director of Recruitment Intelligence and Innovation at L'Oréal USA.
Engage with companies by following their pages and feeds, liking and commenting on posts, reading blogs and following people who work in the departments that you’d like to work in. “By following these people, you may be able to let them know you want to be on their team,” says Dobroski. “It shows that your interest, which could give you an advantage.”
Employee conversations posted on a company’s pages can help you tailor your approach to that company. “Social media can help you identify people in your network to facilitate a warm introduction,” says Descano. “It can help you make a good first impression and connect you with opportunities that may not be public.”
Show You’re Engaged in Your Career
Experts suggest using social media to share projects you’ve worked on and to connect with other professionals to discuss issues related to your industry.
“This can be very appealing, and [a company] may want to pick up the phone and call you as opposed to another candidate,” adds Dobroski. “If a hiring manager is looking at a candidate and sees someone who’s engaged in the industry, that’s more impressive than someone who’s tweeting their favorite cartoons over and over again.”
“Social media gives recruiters insight into candidates’ lives in and outside of the office,” says Sweeney. “It works in a candidate’s favor to have a well-constructed social media presence.”
But be careful not to overshare. “Is what you’re saying and liking really consistent with the brand that you’re putting forward?” asks Descano. Consider whether you’re telling a cohesive story and writing as if the audience were hiring manager. Use social media to bring your resume to life in a more compelling way.
Expand Your Network
“Social media platforms like LinkedIn give you an opportunity to participate in groups,” says Descano. “It’s a way to expand your network and to reconnect with former colleagues and business partners who may be helpful in connecting you with a new opportunity.”
But this process takes more than just accepting and sending invitations to connect. “Figure out how you can connect with people so they will be willing and interested in connecting with you,” says Stephen Paskoff, president and CEO of legal and ethical workplace training firm ELI. Before making a connection, try to find common interests or experiences that you can reference.
Choose the Right Social Media Sites
Most people look primarily at Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, when it comes to social networking, but depending on your role and industry, being active on sites like Pinterest and Instagram could help a job seeker.
For those in a creative field, experts advise showcasing work on sites like Pinterest and Instagram. LinkedIn can be a great tool for marketing professionals and for those who create content, for example, Twitter can demonstrate their ability to get someone’s attention in 140 characters.
Hide Certain Items, or Don’t Post Them At All
“The rule of thumb is anything can be found online; if you’re actively searching for a job, don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your mother to see,” says Dobroski.
Photos or posts about drinking or using drugs are the most common cited turn-offs for employers, says Haefner, as well as job seekers who bad mouth previous employers or coworkers.
To keep some social media platforms for personal use, experts suggest using restrictive privacy settings and being judicious when connecting with people. “Don’t add anyone [to Facebook] who isn’t part of your personal network, and keep it to your closest friends, family and classmates,” says Danielle Weinblatt, CEO and co-founder of Take the Interview.
Experts also caution against advocating very strongly on topics that could be divisive, like politics or religion, as these could have implications with an employer or client down the road.
Social media can work in your favor if it shows that you’ve good communication skills, creativity, and a professional image. How you present yourself will help an employer determine whether you’ll be a risk or a benefit to the workplace.
“Your posts can be really positive in terms of your professionalism, your accomplishments, the better part of your hobbies — just assume that everyone can see what you put on social media and you’re posting for people who are looking to weed out and select candidates,” says Paskoff.