Most of us regularly use social media of some sort, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn. We use these platforms to maintain our connections with friends, keep up with news and local events, and express our ideas and emotions. Yet there’s a hidden danger for jobseekers – your social media image could be making you look unprofessional and sabotaging your employment chances.
employers check social media. . .
Employers want to get as much information as possible before hiring someone, so that they can feel confident they’re making the right choice. Thus, many employers make it a practice to look up candidates online. If they don’t like what they see, they may reject the candidate.
. . .so you should too.
Google yourself, and look yourself up on every social media platform that you use. Use a computer that is not logged into your profile (such as a computer at the library), so that you see what an outsider will see when they look you up online. Make note of what is visible, in terms of your accounts, photos, posts, and comments. Approach it as if you were reading about a stranger – what kind of image do you project? Do you seem like a good potential employee (hard-working, reliable, caring, etc.)? Or do you seem unprofessional, bitter, or high-maintenance?
avoid these common mistakes:
- Inappropriate or risqué pictures, such as images that include alcohol, drugs, people under the influence, scantily-clad people, or high-risk behavior. Anything that makes you look like the life of the party is probably a bad idea – hiring managers don’t want to hire the life of the party; they want to hire responsible professionals.
- Unprofessional or negative posts. Social media is so public that it’s not a safe place to vent about your struggles. For examples, see these real tweets that have cost people job opportunities: “I hate my boss. Take this job and shove it.” “Unemployment isn’t so bad. It will be hard going back to work.” “Sexual harassment rules are so dumb.” “Oh please, everybody lies on their resume.”
- Controversial topics, such as politics or religion, can be risky. Keep in mind, hiring managers may have different beliefs from you. If that’s true – and you’re very vocal online about your beliefs – the hiring manager may decide they don’t want to work with someone they won’t get along with. We are not saying you CAN’T express your beliefs – if it’s very important to you, you may decide that it’s worth the risk. But be aware that your self-expression may be negatively impacting your job search.
how do i fix my online image?
- Un-tag yourself from unflattering photos.
- Delete irresponsible tweets/posts.
- Tighten your privacy settings so that strangers cannot see most of your information.
- Some people even use a false name for personal accounts, so that no one except their contacts can see any of their information.
- Caveat: Even with those precautions, be careful what you post. If someone takes a screenshot of something you post, that can be public and permanent.
what if i have no social media presence at all?
You may decide that the best way to keep a clean image is to avoid the temptation of social media entirely. That may or may not be a good idea, depending on your situation.
- For a job in which you will never need to know how to use social media (such as nurse, truck driver, or prep cook), it’s probably fine to have no online presence.
- For a job that requires you to be tech-savvy (such as IT professional, graphic designer, or librarian), it will look weird to employers if you don’t seem to have any knowledge of or experience with social media technology.
- For a job that involves sales, promotion, or community outreach (such as marketing specialist or fundraising director), you need to showcase your comfort with using social media to reach people.
- If you’re in the corporate world, you need to have a LinkedIn account, or you will not be taken seriously. Your LinkedIn account should focus entirely on your professional life, not your personal life.
- When used correctly, social media can help your job search. Both LinkedIn and Facebook have job search functions built in. Additionally, all social media platforms can be used for networking, which can lead you to job openings you’d never know about otherwise. Also, social media can be a great place to build your personal brand and make yourself look attractive to employers.
If you have further questions about this topic, or if you’d like our help improving your social media image, give us a call at 225-231-3733.
Written by Lynnette Lee