Many job applications require me to include links to my social media profiles, including Facebook and Twitter. I’m not very active on either one anymore. What are they looking for on there, and should I start posting more often, or more of a certain kind of content? Should I be worried about them seeing my wedding photos or political articles I’ve shared in the past? – Beth in Salem, OR
Social media is not “private” media. People often talk about work-life balance, but when it comes to internet footprints, companies will happily review the “life” part when recruiting you for a job. In fact, reviewing your social media has become the norm of potential employers.
LinkedIn is the most important social media when it comes to your career, of course, but every other social media page you have that can easily be linked to you is also likely to be examined by a company considering hiring you. The importance of the position you are applying to and the area of work it is in will impact how closely you are examined—a job in the defense sector that needs security clearance will entail significant levels of scrutiny that a starting position at a local business firm will likely not.
Because of this, if you expect to be entering a career in areas where your social media presence will be strictly evaluated in your hiring, you need to be mindful of what you post. To be clear, you can still post and enjoy social media. Just be sure that everything you are posting is something you would not need to keep from your boss.
What They’re Looking For
Any employer that looks at your social media profiles will firstly be looking for obvious red flags, like anything indicating drug use or unstable behavior. Perhaps more concerning, companies may be critical of overt political posts. If you obviously align with any far-from-center views, that could raise some flags. Generally, however, companies are most concerned that you are a reasonable person. One last big thing to watch regarding posting: companies do not want to see posts denigrating a previous employer, or sharing what could be considered confidential information.
When it comes to platforms like Twitter and Instagram, companies may also take a look at who you are following, and who follows you. Twitter may be expected to show some of your professional side: If you care about your industry or career, do you follow relevant sources? Do you retweet useful information?
The fact that companies review social media profiles before hiring should not be entirely upsetting. View this as another opportunity to showcase yourself; after all, that’s what social media is for. The key is to maintain compassion and respect in your words and tone of every post.
Freshen Up Your Social Media
First and foremost, the technical: For any “about me” descriptions, it can pay off to have accurate grammar and decent writing. No one expects all your posts to meet this standard, either, but if your written content is constantly riddled with mistakes and not just emojis and common internet speak, it could reflect poorly on your communication abilities. Brushing up a few of your profile pieces will give a solid introduction to any hiring recruiter. Along these same lines, it’s not a bad idea to have an at least semi-professional photo. (You can always change it to something more fun later after you’ve landed a job.)
Posting photos or stories showing off important parts of your life won’t do you any harm, either. Recruiters expect to see photos of family and of social outings. As mentioned, you may want to be careful of posting photos of wild parties or anything that would be viewed as irresponsible behavior. Having pictures of a wedding or a selfie with friends will not prevent you from being hired, however. And, depending on company culture, your photos can even benefit you. Many modern-day companies emphasize work-life balance and recreation, so showcasing yourself going on hikes or participating in a community event could convince a recruiter that you will be a good fit in their workplace.
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding social media is true all the time: post responsibly. You can still have fun and enjoy the aspects of the platform you want, it’s just good to remember that this material is available to everyone. Don’t strictly curate your Facebook page the same way you would your LinkedIn; just keep it from getting too wild.
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.