Social media can be a fantastic tool for job hunters, but it can also be a minefield.

When you apply for a job, you can bet the first thing the hiring manager will do after receiving your resume is search for your social media profiles. This holds true for “friend-of-a-friend” referrals and other networking meetups, too. Grabbing coffee to chat about new opportunities? It’s a safe bet that your new contact will do some quick social media research before your meeting.

Don’t assume you’re in the clear if you rarely post to social media today. I’ve seen applicants with strong resumes miss out on opportunities because an old Facebook post raised a red flag with their prospective employer. But deleting your social footprint isn’t the answer, either. In fact, I recommend against this approach as I’ve had employers tell me they find it odd for applicants to have no online presence beyond a limited LinkedIn profile.

So what’s a social media-savvy job seeker to do? I recommend conducting a comprehensive “social media audit” of all profiles, posts, photos, videos and shared links.

Conducting a Social Media Audit: 4 Red Flags for Job Hunters

  • Politics and religion: As the old saying goes, never discuss politics or religion, period. People tend to have very passionate and emotional views on these topics, and no matter what you post, you risk offending someone in your audience. Worse, Facebook and Twitter posts can easily be taken out of context. It’s far better to delete or hide any political or religious posts than risk an employer misconstruing an innocuous comment.
  • Complaints about work: I’m always surprised at how many people vent about workplace issues on social media. When you post something negative or passive aggressive about your company or a coworker, chances are it will get back to them. Not only is this behavior immature and unprofessional but it also can be an HR headache. Plus, when a hiring manager sees you griping about your current job on social media, she’ll naturally assume that you’ll complain about your next job, too. Fairly or not, you’ll be labeled as someone who creates workplace drama– definitely not a positive first impression! No company wants to be dragged through the mud on Twitter: you can bet that hiring manager will pass on your resume.
  • Inappropriate social activities: Think your embarrassing college photos are under wraps? Think again: if you’re tagged in a friend’s post, there’s always a chance that someone in your extended network might be connected to someone at your new employer. Prior to starting your job search, do a quick scan of all your social feeds. Untag yourself or make private any photos involving alcohol, parties or other activities that could be deemed inappropriate or immature. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing the photo to your first interview, make sure no one can find it!
  • Too much skin: You may think you look great in a bikini or speedo, but keep those scantily clad photos off your social media accounts, including Instagram and Snapchat. When a hiring manager Googles your name and is confronted with you in a barely-there swimsuit, they’ll start to question your professionalism. Keep your assets under wraps!

What to Post on Social Media to Get Ahead at Work

Once you’ve cleaned up your profiles, it’s time to use social media as an asset to build a positive professional image. LinkedIn and Twitter are great platforms for highlighting your skills, experience and knowledge. Share articles and other content relevant to industry trends – just be sure to include intelligent, insightful commentary and double check your spelling and grammar. You can also use Facebook and Instagram to show off other sides to your personality such as volunteer work or hobbies. Keep it professional and don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.

How has social media impacted your career? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below.


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