For job seekers, social media is a powerful tool for reaching a huge audience. But it’s a tool that comes with a big, bold warning label.
Hiring managers and HR departments today are very social media-savvy. Looking at a candidate’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles is a regular part of the screening process, so it’s imperative that applicants understand how to use social media channels properly and responsibly.
Employers will use your social profiles to learn about your “story,” so make it a good one. You should assume that whatever you post online will be found by potential employers. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager when you think about what’s appropriate to post on your profile. Your friends may “get” your irreverent sense of humor or be amused by the pictures of you dancing on the bar last weekend, but a hiring manager won’t be so understanding.
Use your online presence as a way to project a professional image. For example, use Twitter to discuss industry trends or share insightful articles about current events. On Facebook, post pictures of an employee volunteer event that you led. If you have potentially embarrassing personal photos on Facebook, make sure the privacy settings are activated to limit who can see those photos. Most importantly, making sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and your profile picture is professional (no glamour shots) will further advance your professional appearence.
Now that we’ve talked about playing defense, let’s discuss how to play offense. LinkedIn can be an invaluable resource to help you land and prepare for interviews. Just as companies are using social media to learn about you before an interview, you should be using these tools to learn about the people you will be interviewing with.
Use LinkedIn’s introduction tool to get your existing contacts to introduce you to people at companies that you’re interested in. We’re all more likely to grab a cup of coffee or have a quick phone chat with someone who has been vetted by a friend. And when it comes to your LinkedIn contacts, focus on quality, not quantity. Part of your personal brand is defined by the company you keep—so be selective in who you choose to join your professional network.
By being smart about what you post and how you go about networking online, you can make sure that social media is an asset, not a liability, in your job search.