Social Media Dos and Don’ts When Looking for a Job
Picture this. Sunday morning is shining through your curtains and your head is throbbing. Every little sound is making it worse and your mouth tastes like the Sahara. You can barely remember the night before. You were somewhere… with someone… you think. You’re not sure but luckily your friends have tagged you in last night’s photos on social media to help you remember.
As funny (or mortifying) as those pictures may seem, it’s important to remember that your social media profile can be difficult to hide. Once uploaded, almost anyone who searches for you will be able to see exactly what you were doing last night. Imagine your boss or future employer finding it and asking you about it when you next see them. Nobody should have to explain that in a professional environment.
Job seekers are always being told about keeping a clean social media profile. It seems like a lot of warning for something that might not even happen. However, the fact is that 93% of employers are checking the social media profiles of candidates. They might not find something that would immediately make them reject you outright. However, they may find something that sets of small alarm bells or something that bumps you down a little in their estimations. Enough to make sure you don’t get the job after all.
Social Media Dos
- Share pictures of your achievements
- Reach out and connect to people in the industry
- Interact with a brand you want to work for (recruiters love to know that you are engaged with the company)
- Demonstrate your creative side
- Use good communication skills (spelling, grammar, have a clear message)
Social Media Don’ts
- Trash former (or current) employers
- Reveal confidential information from work
- Post pictures of you heavily intoxicated or using illicit substances
- Link yourself to criminal activity
- Write discriminatory comments or posts about other groups of people
Examples of Appropriate Posts
Anything to do with your family is usually fine. A picture with grandpa at a family brunch? Perfect! Did your mother visit you this weekend? Do you take her to a favourite beach spot? Post away! A family style picture or post can only really show a good side of your personality.
Employers want to see that the people they are hiring are friendly and easy going. What better way to demonstrate that then by including pictures of you doing stuff with friends. Maybe you went on a hike with your significant other or with your friends this weekend. Show everyone the evidence of how happy you were. It’s also a good opportunity to include pictures of other hobbies that employers might find interesting.
Always. Post. Pets. Seriously, people love animals. If an employer does go through your pictures they might even find something in common with you they can talk about. If you have an usual pet they can even use that as a conversation topic. Do not, however, post hunting or anything to do with animal cruelty. Apart from being obviously a no-go, you can polarise people who don’t share your beliefs.
Examples of Inappropriate Posts
Wild nights that you can’t remember are probably best saved somewhere other than your social media profile. Avoid pictures of you that show excessive drinking and partying. Similarly don’t post pictures of you doing things that are likely to be deemed irresponsible, illegal, or just plain stupid by employers.
Not everything goes your way. Sometimes you need to wait in a queue for a long time. Other times you might have a policy you disagree with at work. If you do have a complaint about something (particularly if it’s your boss) it’s best to put it in an email and send it to someone that can do something about it. Not only is this more professional and more likely to achieve something, it avoids you looking immature and angry. Complaining about your current job also makes employers think that they might be next on your list – or may say a lot about your work ethic.
It’s totally fine to want to share how great your partner is with the world. It’s also totally normal to not get along with your significant other 100% of the time. However, it’s not okay to post about every fight or little rift in the relationship. It goes back to complaining. Oversharing of negative things could have employers thinking that you’re not afraid to bash the company on social media. If you can do it to your loved ones, why not them too?
Work Time Posts
Check what time you are active on social media because the chances are employers are checking too. People posting all through the work day might not be what the company has in mind as their ideal employee. Keep off social media during the day if you can or at least avoid writing lengthy posts when you’re supposed to be working hard.
The Grey Zone
Not everything you do that is outside of work has to be a secret. It’s completely fine to let loose after work or enjoy a festival with friends. However, it’s time to use your best judgment when it comes to sharing pictures of it on social media. If you’re just sitting at a bar with some friends and a photo opportunity comes around, there’s little reason to be worried if that ends up online. It doesn’t say much other than you’re a likeable person with friends. However, if you’re dancing on the bar, or doing shots of it (or someone) that might be a moment to keep off.
The best part of memes is how easy they are to use and interact with. However, it can be easy for some memes to be misconstrued or misunderstood. Try and use your best judgement here. Is there any way this could be deemed offensive by someone? Would it be possible for someone to confuse the meme’s point of view for your own? If so, it’s probably best to avoid publicly sharing it and send it to your friends directly.
Anything Posted When You’re Angry or Irritated
Similar to the no-go for complaining about your boss, you should definitely double-check before posting something when you’re not your normal self. Of course there are times when things happen to you and you want to let people know. That’s normal. Just remember though that emotions are temporary but most social media stuff is in there for the long haul. Think twice about whether that passive aggressive post about the person who wronged you is really worth it.
This is a difficult one because of how important politics can be. It’s completely understandable that if you have a strong opinion on something you would want to share it. However, be aware that a future employer might take issue with a political opinion you’ve shared on social media. That could be enough to ensure you don’t get a call in for an interview. Of course you might not want to work for an employer that doesn’t share your values in which case feel free to share your political opinions.
Find the Social Media Middle Ground
With so many “rules” about what you can and can’t post, what employers are looking for and what will turn them off it can be tempting to just simply go to ground. You feel like dialing your security settings higher than Fort Knox. Even the thought of deleting your profiles and being done with employers ever looking at your social media seems tempting. This might not be as great an idea as it seems though.
Social media is everywhere. For better or worse, it seems there is no escaping it and employers are no different. Just like you they have become accustomed to being able to search for someone and finding their profile. When nothing shows up then or a profile is years out of date, it can ring alarm bells.
This is why you want to aim for the middle ground. Keep your public social media presence low-key but also public enough that you don’t look like you’ve got something to hide. If you really don’t like the idea of social media you can always set up a LinkedIn profile. It’s more professional than Facebook or Twitter and once your details are put in you can almost set and forget about it. Just remember to update your information if your skills, qualifications, or jobs change. Of course you can use it for networking or more social media style posts too.
Why It Matters
You might very well be thinking, “why does any of this even matter?” To be honest, it matters because employers think it matters. Employers know that their employees are an embodiment of the company and what they represent. If you do something stupid or post something racist then it can reflect badly on the organisation. If companies are willing to drop TV stars and managers for things they’ve done, they definitely won’t hang around to hire someone for it.
Employers always take on a certain level when they hire someone new. They are always trying to reduce the amount of risk they might incur. This is one reason why they constantly ask for experience – they want to know they are getting the real deal. Checking your social media presence is one way for them to assess you and judge your level of risk to the business.
It’s Your Brand So Own It
When it comes to social media, our opinion is that keeping to the quiet side is the best option, but you have to use your own judgment here. If you enjoy being creative or engaging with your social media followers that’s great too. Social media is your brand and you should think of it as your personal resume. It tells a story about what you do and value in life. While this can be used to showcase your talents and personality, your digital footprint can also lead employers to skeletons in your closet.
At the end of the day your social media presence, just like your personality and resume, is part of your brand. Own it, make it yours. Just try and keep in mind that employers will be looking at your brand too.
When you get to the interview, there are already some tough questions waiting for you, don’t make one of them be about something you posted online three years ago!
Have you ever had something from social media come back to bite you?
What about the opposite – has social media ever helped you to land a job?
Tell me in the comments below…