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How Social Media Can Sabotage Your Job Search

Employers nowadays aren’t just looking at your application when you apply for a job. Many are perusing your social media accounts as well. In fact, according to one survey, 70 percent of employers check out candidates’ social media profiles before interviewing and hiring. Yet many applicants don’t think employers would bother checking, or perhaps don’t consider how their social media activity would be perceived by a potential employer. But the truth is, it’s easy for employers to find you on social media: a simple Google search of your name can bring up your Facebook or Twitter account.

It’s important that your social media profiles don’t paint you in a negative light. Here are some steps you should take to ensure that an employer doesn’t bin your application after seeing your activity on Facebook or Twitter.

Untag Yourself From Photos

There may be a bunch of photos on Facebook you’re tagged in that you’re not proud of. Your friends may find these photos funny, but they could spell bad news for your job prospects. Obvious unflattering photos would include those where you’ve had too much to drink or are doing reckless activities.

If an employer gets the impression that you live a constant party lifestyle, then they may worry you’ll be unreliable or irresponsible. No boss wants an employee who falls behind at work, comes in late or calls in sick for being hungover or ill as a result of late night partying. So be sure to untag any photos that may give this impression.

Set Your Accounts to Private

If you don’t want to go through the effort of carefully untagging photos that may raise red flags for an employer, just set your account to private. By doing so, all an employer can see is your profile photo and some basic information. They won’t be able to see your posting history or other photos. Pam Lindsay-Dunn, managing director at Hays, said:

“There’s no need to delete your social media profiles, but you should make them as private as possible and follow the advice that you shouldn’t be posting anything that you wouldn’t want current or prospective employers to see.”

Since an employer will still be able to see your profile photo, make sure that it is professional (or at the very least, not questionable or silly).

Be Mindful of Your Posts

Social media platforms should, of course, be used to express yourself and what you believe. That said, be aware that sharing controversial opinions may not sit favourably with a potential employer. You can avoid this problem by setting your account to private, as mentioned in the previous point. On the other hand, you may be open to the idea of an employer seeing your social media activity as a way of showcasing your interests, values and goals — it’s up to you.

If you avoid sharing certain content or views, this doesn’t mean you’re censoring yourself. Some conversations are simply best had in private (online or in person) rather than on a public platform. But if you do decide to have debates on Facebook or Twitter, don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person (an all-too-common mistake). It’s easy to sit behind a screen and type snide, harsh or insulting comments to someone else, but if an employer sees you doing so, this won’t leave them with a good impression of you.

Also, you definitely want to hide or delete any posts in which you’re moaning about a past or current job. Even if your complaints about your work, boss or co-workers are justified in your eyes, if an employer sees these types of posts, it’s likely to deter them from hiring you.

You should also be mindful of when you’re active on social media. If you’ve told a potential new employer that you’re currently working and they see you’re posting non-work-related content during the work day, then this may signal to them that you don’t take work seriously. Lindsay-Dunn stresses:

“Hiring managers will know if you are currently employed or not — so any social content you create or post during office hours should be work-related, otherwise you risk looking like your productivity has dropped and you’ve lost your focus.”

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

If an employer is going to check your social media profiles, then you should try to use that to your advantage. If you can gain a decent following on Twitter and regularly post or share content that relates to your interests and values, then this will help persuade an employer that you’re a good match for the role.

Moreover, you want to ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and complete. Lindsay-Dunn argues:

“Social media should be seen as a positive asset for job seekers if used correctly. LinkedIn is a great way to showcase a passion for your industry by joining relevant groups, posting frequently and updating your profile regularly. For LinkedIn in particular, make sure that your CV matches up to what your profile says in terms of employment dates and experience. Even if the discrepancy is a genuine mistake rather than covering it up, it could indicate poor attention to detail.”

Since so many employers are looking at applicants’ social media profiles, it’s worth thinking about your photos and posts, and whether a prospective employer could perceive any of them negatively. It would be a shame to send off a perfect job application or perform brilliantly in an interview, only to be rejected because of an old photo or comment you made on social media. However, this situation can always be avoided by simply changing your privacy settings.

Sam Woolfe writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and graduate jobs. He is particularly interested in self-development, psychology, mental health, and the future of work. Most of all, though, Sam is passionate about helping people find work that is meaningful and fulfilling. You can follow him on Twitter and find more of his work at www.samwoolfe.com.

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