Employers use social media primarily as a screening tool. The goal of screening is to eliminate candidates, not evaluate them. You can never tell what content in your social media might upset an employer, so you have two major concerns: eliminate the negative and actively create the professional. You should actively manage what appears under your name everywhere online–what is often referred to as your digital footprint. A positive and professional digital footprint is an asset in any job or internship search.
To really use social media to support your personal brand, you need to engage in it under your real name. First, just as with your email address, using something as close as possible to your real name will always be more professional than nicknames which can be interpreted in any number of ways, no matter what your intent. Second, using your real name in your social media efforts helps positive things about you come up higher in Google search results.
You have probably been warned many times about how the negative aspects of social media can impact your job search. Google yourself to see what comes up and get rid of any even remotely questionable content. People have been removed from their current jobs—to say nothing of those passed over for an interview—because of “bad” things found on social media. In some cases, this has been as simple as an image of the person holding a beer or glass of wine, even if they didn’t appear drunk or out of control. The biggest “negative” factors hiring managers cited in reviews of social media profiles were: profanity, spelling/grammar errors, references to illegal drugs, sexual content, alcohol and guns.
You can attempt to keep your information set to “private” but always bear in mind one thing:
- Each social media platform has almost complete control over your information and can change the rules whenever it suits them. While they typically will let you know, sometimes it is in fine print or in those “Yes, I agree to these terms” buttons everyone presses without reading. What is private today may not be tomorrow. This can be especially troubling on Facebook. Not only does Facebook change their rules fairly frequently, but also many people have lots of “friends” on Facebook that they may have forgotten about or with whom they don’t stay in frequent touch. That old friend from high school you don’t really talk to anymore? Maybe her mother works in HR for the company where you just applied and she saw that bad post you just put out there because your old friend commented on it. Maybe your “friend” works in HR and is screening resumes for his boss.
All this might have you thinking that the safest thing to do would be to completely erase all your social media accounts before you begin a job search. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Social Media can be a huge help to your search!
- First, some social media tools, like LinkedIn, are not only professional in nature to begin with, but are rapidly becoming almost a requirement among recruiters and hiring managers. As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of recruiters use LinkedIn to help evaluate candidates and a complete absence from the platform can present you as someone unwilling to use, or uncomfortable with, technology. This is not a great message to send to recruiters. The head of global recruiting for a major Fortune 100 firm said recently that, as far as he and his recruiters were concerned, “If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you don’t exist”.
- Second, social media is a powerful tool for communication and your job search is all about communication. It’s about letting employers know—in every way you can—that you are someone who has the skills and passion to succeed in their company. To effectively build your brand you need to be engaged in at least a few forms of social media. How many and to what extent will be determined by what you want to do and in what industry you would like to work.
LinkedIn is a virtual requirement. There is almost no industry you could be headed into where there is no value in having a presence on LinkedIn. However, for almost everyone, there is also good reason to engage on Facebook and Twitter as well. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter currently represent the “big 3” when it comes to social media in a job search. 65% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to evaluate candidates, but 68% are also using Facebook and 48% are using Twitter. Those numbers have continued to grow every year for the last several years. As new recruiters under the age of 50 have joined the workforce, we’ve seen a rise in the use of Instagram and YouTube as recruiting tools as well. Lately, TikTok and Snapchat have entered the mix as well.
So, since the recruiters are already there, you must be as well. There are specific ways to use each tool to help establish yourself as a professional and support your search process.
At a very basic level you can simply “follow” or “like” the companies that interest you on each of these platforms. Almost all companies are active in all three major services. Some simply use this to convey information customers like to see. If that’s the case, following the company will give you some insight into what they think is important to their clients (who you hope will soon be your clients, too!). This can be great information to have as you prepare for interviews and referral/outreach conversations.
However, more and more each day, corporate HR offices are becoming active with their own accounts—separate from the commercial account for the company—on each of these platforms as well. While it may not seem like it as a job seeker looking for your first full‐time job, employers have to compete for talent as well. They use social media to brand themselves as a place you might want to work just like you are trying to brand yourself as an exceptional candidate they should consider. Be sure to follow good social media etiquette. You can certainly follow the corporate pages/sites. However, you can also follow the individual recruiters as well, especially if you have met them or interacted with them in real life. I wouldn’t suggest following recruiters individually on Facebook, even if you have met them, since most people still consider Facebook a “private” form of social media. But you absolutely can on LinkedIn (if you have had some previous interaction with them) and Twitter (at any time, whether you know them or not, since it is the most “open” of all three platforms).
In addition to branding, HR groups will actually recruit through these tools. Employers routinely tweet out jobs that they are having trouble filling. Most LinkedIn groups have a separate “jobs” tab where positions get posted (many of which are only posted in the groups since recruiters know only people interested in the field will be looking there).
Back in 2010 a small, unknown start‐up company founder sent out a tweet that he was hiring and was looking for some tips to help fill the role. A guy named Ryan Graves tweeted back, “Here’s a tip, call me☺☺”. That was all it took to start the conversation. That company is now valued at over $41 billion and you know it as Uber. And Ryan Graves is a billionaire.
When interacting with HR‐based social media pages or representatives, use it as an opportunity to establish yourself as someone who knows the industry and product. Comment, “like”, retweet, and interact as appropriate based on the content the employer posts. A few intelligent comments here and there might get you noticed, especially if you become a presence across multiple platforms. It gives you something to talk about in cover letters and direct outreach/networking calls, and may make your name more memorable when you actually apply to posted positions.
More than 80% of recruiters indicate that they are using social media to help gauge candidate interest in the industry (searching for industry related posts on LinkedIn and Facebook) and looking for examples of written or design work to help evaluate ability (83% on LinkedIn and 27% on Facebook).
There have been a number of examples of entry‐level candidates getting noticed through social media. Some of these have been “big splash” events, like the recent grad that wanted to work at Airbnb. She had applied through their website multiple times but never got a reply. So she created a website that looked like an Airbnb rental page but was really her resume, as well as a marketing plan to expand their reach into other countries. She tweeted the link directly to the CEO. He saw it, liked her plan, re‐tweeted it tagging his HR and marketing staff, and it went viral. She got an interview. Now, this certainly isn’t typical and if you tried it again today it probably wouldn’t work (original is only original once) but “big splash” isn’t the only way to succeed. The woman in question here was a frequent user of the product, had done extensive research and backed it up with a great idea. But her idea only got noticed because she was able to tweet it directly to the CEO. That’s the power.
By engaging on social media, even in lower profile way, you can get noticed and reach people you might otherwise never get to reach.
Lots of people want to work at places like Apple, Google and Airbnb, and social media can be a great way to reach people inside these very large companies that you might otherwise never reach. But, remember, it is just as effective—if not more so—when trying to engage someone in a smaller company.
For companies big and small, social media is a huge—and growing—part of their recruiting and hiring process. The more engaged you become the greater your chances of landing a great full–‐ time position.
There are many, many more ways to engage on social media to assist your job search if you want to try to expand your reach even more, or if you are headed into an industry where it is actively used (which helps you demonstrate your competency with the tool). Here’s a breakdown of some tips for many of the major tools and how you might apply them to a job search:
- Again, this one that isn’t really an option. See the full CAS LinkedIn Guide for all the ways to build and use this tool.
- Follow the corporate pages of the companies that you are interested in and be an active participant. Does their content relate to what you want to do? “Like” posts, comment and interact as appropriate based on the content they post.
- Follow the main handle for the companies you are interested in and any employees of the companies you are interested in who are actively engaged in the platform professionally. You can search Twitter by company name and people who have their employer in their profile description will come up. Check out a few and see who is using Twitter as part of their job or personal passion for the industry, rather than personally, and follow a few. Retweet or favorite the professional content that you like.
- Tweet original content of your own that is relevant to your target industry and use hashtags to expand your reach beyond your own followers.
- You can add your target companies to a separate list to make it easier to keep tabs on them and not miss any tweeted job opportunities.
- You can also check out the companion site, Twitjobsearch.com. This site aggregates any jobs that are sent out as tweets so you can search them more easily.
Instagram can be helpful for your personal branding efforts is you are looking to work in a highly visual field and have great visual content to show an employer, or even to just demonstrate your artistic/visual side. This tool is growing in use! To ensure the broadest exposure, find a way to get some of your best visual content onto LinkedIn, Twitter or a personal website/portfolio as well.
- Creating a personal blog where you discuss things of interest to you (related to your career goals) can be a powerful way to demonstrate both your passion and competence in a specific area. It is also a great way for anyone interested in a field involving writing to demonstrate their written communication skills. WordPress is the most commonly used platform, but there are many others.
- LinkedIn has a built in blogging feature which might be right for you. Just remember, using that tool means everyone in your LinkedIn network will see what you create.
- A final word on blogging, especially if you use a separate site or personal website to do so. People who would be interested in seeing your blog content are also typically interested in seeing that
you do it routinely. If you only blog once a year it could actually leave a negative impression. Try to commit to putting out at least some content on a weekly basis if you think blogging can help you.
- If you have any video based content you have created in a course/internship that showcases your skills you can host it here and link it back to your LinkedIn profile.
- You can also subscribe to channels for companies of interest that are producing for the platform.
- Got a great elevator pitch? Record yourself delivering it, add the link to your LinkedIn profile, personal website, twitter profile, ePortfolio, or even as a link on your resume or networking card.
- In an increasingly digital world it is probably a good idea to secure “your” URL as soon as possible and an even better idea to publish a personal website to that URL prior to a job search. By “your”URL, I mean the web address that comes as close as possible to www.firstnamelastname.com . If no one else has taken it yet, grab it and hold it until you are ready to develop some content to fill the space. You can typically reserve one for $15 per year through a web host like GoDaddy.com
- Even if you aren’t especially technically inclined, you can use pre–‐existing templates to make a free basic website using Googlesites or Wix. Even if it serves only as a one page online version of your resume, it will help you come up in web searches. Controlling what comes up during a Google search is an important part of personal branding, especially if you have a common name and want to make sure prospective employers find you.
- Google Alerts allow you to save a specific search and receive an email alert any time you get a new match. Just as you should Google yourself to see what comes up so you can eliminate anything negative you find, you should set up a Google alert for just your full name so you can be alerted if anything new about you gets published to the web.
- You can also set Google alerts for each company in which you are interested, as well as, on specific topics of interest (e.g., green energy, pharmaceutical research, etc.). This is a great way to find out who might be hiring now or in the future.Monitor whatever you use regularly! Regardless of how many and which social media tools you choose to use, be sure to consistently update them and monitor them. The only thing worse than not getting contacted by one of your target companies is to get contacted (let’s say, by direct message in your new Twitter account) and not see it for two weeks!