I Asked An Expert For Social Media Tips For Jobseekers, And Here’s What She Said

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According to a 2017 survey, 70% of employers look up applicants on social media before hiring — a 10% jump from the previous year. And as we become ever more extremely online, it’s safe to assume that this percentage will keep ticking up.

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Employers aren’t just looking — 54% said that content they’d seen on social media actually made them decide against hiring a candidate. Your social media use could even hurt your current job.

There are high-profile examples of this, like that time a woman lost her internship at NASA after tweeting, “Suck my dick and balls, I work at NASA.” Or the exec who claims that her tweets opposing school closures and mask mandates during the pandemic cost her her job.

It’s enough to make you wonder, should rule #1 be, “Just don’t tweet”???

To learn more about what employers are really thinking when they check on applicants’ social media, I reached out to Sara Skirboll, VP of Communications at CareerBuilder. Here’s what we talked about:

1.First of all, you should know that in pretty much every field, employers like to check up on candidates’ social media presence. But certain industries might scrutinize your profiles more than others.

Whether you’re applying for a role in finance or the arts, your social media presence matters during your job search. Skirboll says, “While this practice is common across the board, we’ve noticed that industries who require knowledge of the online landscape, like marketing and communications, have made this practice a necessary step to ensure that a candidate is already utilizing social media in a smart and appropriate way.”

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2.Of all the social media platforms out there, LinkedIn still reigns supreme when it comes to your job search.

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Though some Gen Z’ers are using TikTok to find jobs, your LinkedIn presence still matters a lot to employers who are curious about your digital vibe. Skirboll says, “LinkedIn is typically the first place an employer will look to see your job history, skills and presence. Think of it as your online résumé. That said, keep all social channels updated as they are still a part of your digital footprint.”

For LinkedIn, filling out your whole profile is a great idea as it can help you show up in more searches for people with your skills and experience. You might also want to add your thoughts to discussions in LinkedIn groups — one writer says her profile got 425% more views after she joined a few conversations.

3.What’s considered “professional” can vary a lot depending on the kind of work you do. If you’re not sure how a post or photo would be received in your industry, you might want to take it down just to be on the safe side.

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For example, if you’re in a creative field, then pictures with visible tattoos are probably no big deal. But if you work in a more traditional or conservative environment, then you might want to keep your ink covered up in your professional profiles. If you’re ever unsure, Skirboll says, “I live by the phrase, ‘when in doubt, delete.’” After all, you don’t want to miss out on opportunities that you’re qualified for because someone made a snap judgement about your social media.

Of course, there are some things that pretty much any employer will see as a dealbreaker, like hate speech, badmouthing your job, lying about qualifications, and controversial or NSFW content.

4.It’s a really good idea to do regular check ups on all of your public profiles to make sure they’re in tip-top shape.

Young woman looking at her smartphone in an office

Skirboll says that it’s super helpful to get in the habit of doing a timeline cleanse every now and then. “We find that while most people are now more cognizant of tone and topic when sharing, they may have forgotten about posts from years back. This can become a major red flag for recruiters, as attention to detail is often a highly sought-after skill for any industry.”

If you’re on Twitter, you can use a tool like TweetDelete to clean up old posts. On Instagram, you can either archive or delete photos that you don’t want to show up on your grid. And on Facebook, you can change privacy settings on a post-by-post basis or use Facebook’s bulk delete tool. BTW, don’t forget to look at posts that others have tagged you in as well and make sure that anything that doesn’t fit your professional brand is hidden.

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5.Managing your social media during a job hunt isn’t just about hiding your party pics or deleting inflammatory posts. You also want to add content regularly that reflects on your professional interests.

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Once you’ve scrubbed your social media for any potentially problematic content, don’t stop there. Skirboll says, “Making thoughtful comments on relevant LinkedIn posts can boost your strength as a candidate and grow your network of potential references.” So use your social network to, well, network a little bit. If this feels awkward, look at how your mentors and influencers in your industry interact for ideas.

6.And definitely make a habit of posting your career wins.

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Don’t be shy about sharing your professional accomplishments. Skirboll says, “When you hit important professional or personal milestones, it’s often worth sharing on social media, more importantly when those milestones emphasize your skillset whether that be earning a certification, graduating from any level of schooling or being featured on your local news. Diverse content like this can help you stick out to a recruiter while they are scanning for candidates that may be the right fit.”

So when you get named employee of the month, wrap up an important public-facing project, publish a new article, or land a promotion, don’t forget to post it.

7.Choose a profile photo that’s professional and matches your current look.

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“Your profile photo is essentially a first impression so it’s important to make it count,” says Skirboll. “Choose a photo that represents both your personality and your professionalism, enhancing your personal brand. For LinkedIn, your profile picture is your professional image, so make sure it is a high-res, solo shot of yourself in a professional setting.”

You should also choose a photo where your face is clearly visible and you look like your current self. For example, if you just changed up your look from brunette to blonde and started wearing glasses, your profile pic should feature your new hair and spectacles. Otherwise, when you show up to an interview looking completely different, they just might wonder if you’re a catfish.

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8.Ask someone else to look over your posts or use a tool that can help you cut down on typos.

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No matter how good you think your spelling and grammar are, English is a helluva language and it’s super easy to make mistakes. So you might want to have someone else look at your posts for you, or try a tool like Grammarly that can help you spot errors before you post.

And for your professional profiles, Skirboll says that using internet slang and abbreviations could look sloppy to potential employers. “Social media tends to be a place where text is typed in abbreviated format — some being trendy phrases. It all depends on the platform, but do avoid incorrect use of words like ‘ur’ instead of ‘you’re’ or ‘n’ instead of ‘and’ which can come off as unprofessional to a hiring manager.”

9.Don’t contact potential employers on social media to check on your application.

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There are a couple of instances where it’s okay to contact a potential employer over social media. “If you’re interested in background information or references, it’s appropriate to reach out via LinkedIn versus the more personal Facebook and Instagram channels,” says Skirboll.

But for all other inquiries, you should stick to email to keep communications streamlined and avoid annoying a potential employer. Remember, unless it’s a very small business, the people running a company’s social media probably aren’t the same folks you’d want to talk to about a job opportunity, so it’s not the best channel to make a good impression.

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10.If all this sounds like a ton of work, you could just set your more personal profiles to private.

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Don’t want to worry about how you’re being perceived online? Skirboll says that in many cases private profiles won’t reflect terribly on your chances. “Most recruiters and employers understand a candidate’s desire to prioritize their privacy, so it isn’t generally a red flag to see that one’s profiles are set to private. Many people like to keep work and life separate, especially on platforms that are more friend and family-oriented.”

You might also create professional profiles that reflect your work image and use alts without your real name for your personal profiles. Or if social media isn’t really your thing, you might consider creating a professional website instead that showcases who you are and what you do. It all depends on how important social media is in your industry and what you’re personally comfortable with.

11.But be aware that if you’re going for roles in a very-online industry, your online presence should help show off your social media skills.

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If your work involves social media in any way, Skirboll says that having a strong digital presence can serve you well. “It can be a red flag to see no social presence for some industries that require a vast knowledge of the digital space. If you’re applying to a role in an industry that requires use of company social channels, I’d recommend maintaining a solid online presence to showcase your knowledge.”

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Do you approach your social media differently when you’re looking for a new job? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.

And for more stories about work and money, check out the rest of our personal finance posts.