A Social Occasion
If you’re applying for jobs, and if you’re on social media, recruiters are absolutely looking at your social media profiles. So what does social media and the job search mean for you?
Social media has – for so, so many reasons – been both a blessing and a curse for the world. It has forever changed the way we interact with each other, expanding our circles and our ability to keep in touch beyond geographic boundaries (while simultaneously making many people feel more isolated than ever). It’s even changed the way democracies around the world function (malfunction?), but that’s a whole other topic for someone else. It also creates implications for you as a job seeker.
First of all, it’s not a bad thing to have an online presence. In fact, it’s less common to find people who don’t use at least one social media platform (and for some recruiters it may raise questions if you can’t be found there). But if you are active on social media, and if you are currently applying for jobs (or might at some point in the future), now is the time to start thinking about curating your presence there. I’ll talk about three common platforms separately here: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
If you use Twitter as primarily a source of information, you probably don’t have too much to worry about. Be aware that it’s not too difficult to find out who you follow, and some people may make assumptions based on that. If you choose to use Twitter as a platform to share your opinions, I strongly recommend locking your tweets so that you approve or decline every follower, and that only approved followers see your tweets. No matter how correct you feel your opinions are, or no matter how innocuous and inoffensive they seem to be, I can guarantee you that someone online will disagree with you. As a candidate, you can’t risk that person being someone who otherwise might have interviewed or hired you.
Here again, any actions you take will depend on how you use the platform. If you mostly use it to view posts shared by other people or brands, you’re probably fine. If you share your own content on the platform, you will need to think critically about how a recruiter might interpret your posts. Everyone is entitled to their lives outside of work, but if your posts might be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that your lifestyle could be in conflict with a possible new job, consider locking your account so only approved followers can see your posts. It’s stereotypical to imagine the social media accounts full of drunken pictures taken at parties (and yes, they’re out there). But I’ve also seen social media posts created during working hours, complaining about being at work. Not a great look if you’re trying to position yourself as a candidate. I’m sure neither of these scenarios describe your social media presence; they’re extreme examples. Just be objectively critical about what you’re sharing, if anyone looking is able to see it.
As with the other platforms, your decisions about your Facebook profile will depend on how you use the site. If you tend to share opinions on Facebook in your own posts (either as your own comments, or by sharing links and stories with a particular editorial bias), make sure that your privacy settings only allow your friends to see them. As with Twitter, your beliefs and opinions may be absolutely valid and even seemingly uncontroversial, but I promise you: the internet being the internet, there is someone who will strongly disagree. In the privacy settings, you can make all your posts – back to your very first day on Facebook – visible only to friends, with just a single click. If you’re actively searching for a job, you should also consider not weighing in with comments and opinions on other Facebook pages. No matter how you set your privacy settings, comments on public pages can be seen by anyone. If you’re on the market, you just can’t risk a recruiter forming a negative perception of you based on something you’ve said. It happens, more often than you think.
All three of these platforms have a few elements in common: a name, a profile photo, and a bio. These are things you should also carefully consider if you’re applying for jobs. With Twitter and Instagram, you always have the option of creating an anonymous handle, and a profile picture that isn’t one of you. If you’re inclined to have a public profile and to share your own thoughts or content, this might be the right choice for you. Facebook is a different story; according to the site policies, you’re supposed to use your own name (although I don’t know that this is enforced at all). And of course, if you want friends and family to be able to find you on the site, you have to use your real name. If you do, and if you’re applying for jobs, choose your profile picture carefully. I encourage you to use a photo of yourself. It’s one of the ways you can humanize yourself to recruiters like me, before we’ve met. You’re no longer just a name on a resume, you’re a person. It doesn’t have to be a professional headshot, but it should be one that’s clear, and projects maturity and good judgement. In all three cases, you also have the opportunity to write a brief bio about yourself. If your profiles are such that a recruiter can find them, choose your words carefully, thinking objectively and critically about how they could be interpreted by someone who doesn’t know you.
If you’re online, we’re looking. Make sure we’re seeing what you want us to see.