Each day, an increasing number of recruiters rely on social media as a tool in the screening process when hiring an employee.
This can be a great way for them to learn more about a candidate and who they are as a person. What shows more about your interests, hobbies, and personality than the accounts you share each of them on? It’s hard for a recruiter to fully understand a candidate from a simple piece of paper detailing their accomplishments. This is why social media as an HR tool has become so popular over the last decade.
As beneficial as social media can be in this process, it can also be a major factor in why some people don’t get the job they’re applying for. The major issue with this which many candidates forget to consider is that anything they have ever shared on these accounts will be visible to the recruiter. Oftentimes, employers find information on these accounts that causes them to choose a different candidate. Your digital dirt is likely to follow you for the rest of your life, which is why it’s important to get ahead of the issue by cleaning it up and preventing future issues from arising.
What Recruiters Look For?
When recruiters are searching through your social media profiles, there are several things that they will be looking for. Knowing what they’ll be looking for can help you gain an advantage by knowing what areas of your profiles may need some cleaning up.
- Bio - What does your bio say about you? Most recruiters will be looking at this to see how you describe yourself. Make sure that your biographies on each of your profiles reflect the things you’ve put down on your resume and in interviews. This is your place to show off your “personal brand.” Give them a glimpse of who you are, but don’t lie. For example, a red flag may arise if you say that you’re actively searching for a job, but your bio says “happily employed at XYZ Company.”
- Usernames/Emails - Are your usernames and emails professional? If you are still using the same email address that you made when you were 12 years old, this may not be the best idea. At this age, many of us go through a phase of making our usernames and addresses things that reflect our favorite band, movie, current fad, or even a strange phrase we liked at the moment. Instead, modify it to something simple like JohnSmith@email.com. This is both professional and easy for the recruiter to remember.
- Photos - While photographs may seem harmless, they are often one of the biggest reasons why candidates are passed over for a job. The phrase “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” really does hold true. The photos that you upload should the fun things you like to do, and this doesn’t mean partying. Photos that include alcohol or drugs are a serious no. Avoid them at all cost. Though it may seem harmless that your best friend posted a picture with you and a beer in your hands, a recruiter won’t always find this tasteful.
- Likes/Shares - This one may be more surprising than others, but the content that you are liking and sharing on your profiles speaks volumes about you as a person as well. You may think that it’s harmless to “like” a post on something controversial, but often times this activity is still viewable.
- Posts - Same goes for the posts that you are creating and sharing on your account on your own as well. Long winded rants about your obnoxious neighbor or how saying how hungover you feel on a Monday, don’t reflect well on your character from an outside perspective.
- Following - Additionally, the people and accounts you are following shouldn’t be controversial or spammy in any way either. Following several ghost accounts or inappropriately themed accounts should be avoided.
- Spelling/Grammar - This one is especially important if you will be applying for a job where writing is involved. A few mistakes here and there are obviously okay. We’re all humans, so we’re bound to have a spelling or grammar mistake every once in a while. However, if you’re constantly making mistakes or it’s hard to read through the lingo you’re using, an employer may be forced to reconsider whether you’d make these mistakes on the job as well.
- Activity - A common misconception that many candidates have, is that not using their social media accounts in any capacity would be a good way to avoid issues. While this may be true in a sense, not using social media at all actually makes some recruiters nervous that a candidate is hiding something or doesn’t have much to offer.
Current Employees Take Caution
It’s important to know that current employees are not counted out of social media checks by their HR team. In fact, many current employees at companies across the world have been fired for something that they posted online. Anything inappropriate, defaming to the company, or controversial can raise major red flags that could cost you your job. Staying on top of your social media habits is an important thing to adopt before you get a job and well into.
Sharing a post online about how much you hate your boss, or making fun of an employee will definitely get you a fast ticket to your boss’ office and possibly termination. If you are questioning whether something is really worth sharing or not, it probably isn’t, especially if it comes with a price to pay or hurts someone's feelings. Look into your company’s social media policy to make sure that you aren’t violating it in any manner.
Cleaning Up Your Profiles
By now, you may be thinking about the things that already exist on your accounts. Maybe it’s that one photo from university your friend tagged you in or maybe it’s that controversial post you shared a while back. If you’re questioning anything, now is the time to make the change. Especially if you’re in the midst of a job search. Unfortunately, with the Internet, not everything can be permanently deleted. There’s usually still a way to find something that was once active online. Lucky for you, there are a few steps you can take to clean up your digital presence.
- Remove Bad Content - Go through each and every one of your social media accounts. Take a careful look at everything you have on there. Try to go back roughly 6 months - 1 year worth of content and possibly longer for pictures. If anything stands out or looks like it could be a red flag, delete it. If a friend or family member posted it, ask them to remove it. In some cases you may need to report the content for the site administration to delete.
- Change Usernames - This one is simple enough. Change your usernames to make them simple and professional. If you don’t currently have one, create a new email that can be used for formal correspondences only.
- Fight Discrepancies - If something appears in a search result that contains false information, contact the site administrator. Provide them with the correct information or ask them to take the current info down.
- Change Privacy Settings - If you don’t want anyone viewing your profile at all, that’s okay. Go into your settings on your accounts and change viewing from public to private or friends only. This way, you will only appear in a result with a basic profile overview. Essentially it will only show your bio and profile picture. It’s a great way to keep your information private while still showing that you are an active user.
Building a Professional Presence
A more important step rather than simply trying to bury your negative content, is building up positive content. This is a great way to show off your talents by building a personal brand through online platforms. Also, it can help you stand out above those you are competing against for a job.
- Linked-In - This popular social media platform can be invaluable for anyone searching for a job if used for its intended purposes. Essentially your profile should be a virtual version of your resume. You can also become endorsed by your connections for skills that you excel at, this serves as virtual recommendations by those who are willing to speak on your behalf. Connecting with relevant industry professionals is a great way to expand your network and learn about new opportunities.
- Online Portfolio - If you excel in a specific area like writing, art, or photography why not build an online portfolio? It not only shows off your work for family and friends who are interested, but recruiters love to see someone take the initiative of this caliber to show off their work.
- Author Pages - If you’ve ever freelanced in the past, make sure to connect with relevant websites who build author pages. They will highlight your work and connect you with other industry experts who you might be interested in connecting with