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How Social Media Can Help (or Hurt) Your Job Search

Do's and don'ts on using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter

Remember the days when a glance at a paper résumé was all a recruiter needed to decide whether you were getting an interview? Today, social media have us connecting, networking and promoting ourselves in an instant, allowing prospective employers to do the once-over even quicker.

See also: 15 ways to improve your Linkedin profile

And that's a good — and bad — thing, too.

It's good because employers understand the power of social media to advance their businesses. If you're an active participant online, it's all the better to show how connected to the times you are. You can use these digital platforms to highlight your personality and qualifications to show what you could bring to a workplace.

But, as becomes clearer by the day, what you put out there can come back to bite you. Employers can use social media platforms to learn things about you that you'd rather they didn't know.

So if you're on the market for a new gig, your first task is to type your name in quotes into a search engine and see what pops up. If you get a photo, video or anything else that you wouldn't want a prospective employer to see, get to work on removing it from wherever it's posted.

Then focus on figuring out how to use social media in a positive way to lead you to your next opportunity. Here's a guide to the three most popular sites Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — as well as tips for creating your own personal place online.

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With 900 million users, Facebook is the shining star of social media. And boomers account for a growing number of its fans, using it to maintain connections with friends and family members. But being careless with the information you share on your personal profile could push your résumé to the bottom of the pile.

"At the end of the day, your profile is your life and it should be as public or private as you want," says Beth Carpenter, social communications and strategy manager at AARP. "But realize that once you put something out there to the public, it's out."

Next: 8 ways to save face on Facebook »

To be on the safe side …

  • Do get to know and use your privacy settings. To get started, click on the drop-down arrow in the upper right-hand corner next to "Home" and find Privacy Settings. For example, under "Control Your Default Privacy," you can choose to make your account public (available to the whole world), make it available to only the people you "friend," or customize it. Ask yourself, "If someone were to Google my name, do I want my Facebook profile to appear?"
  • Do choose a strong and unique password. Only use that password for Facebook.
  • Say straight-out that you're on the market. Post a message that says you're looking, and for what. "Your friends can be an amazing resource," Carpenter says. "You never know who or what people know that could help you." Of course, if your current supervisor is one of your Facebook friends and is unaware that you are looking for a new job, you may want to reconsider posting.
  • Do sift through your photos to make sure they're all G-rated. Delete questionable pictures of yourself. Untag yourself from any unsavory photos, whether they include your image or not.
  • Be diplomatic in your "updates." Don't gripe about your current boss. Don't use swear words, and be mindful of participating in controversial topics or debates. "Think of your Facebook account like your dinner table," Carpenter says. "If you wouldn't bring it up at the table, then don't do it on Facebook."
  • Do "like" or "join" Facebook pages of companies or organizations that interest you, as a way of staying abreast of news and promotions.
  • Don't create separate work and personal profiles. With two of them, you can easily get confused and post to the wrong account. "When you try to straddle the line, that's when mistakes happen," Carpenter says.
  • Don't "friend" anyone you don't feel comfortable sharing your life with.

Next: How to be on your best behavior while using LinkedIn. »


If Facebook had a professional sister, her name would be LinkedIn. Some 150 million career-oriented users have profiles that tell the world who they are, what they do, and the chronological trail that got them there.

It's today's largest professional social networking website, and you're selling yourself short if you don't have a profile there — especially if you're in search of a new career. LinkedIn is an effective space to network and make contacts.

"If you want a job at Company X, you may not know anyone, but one of your LinkedIn connections may and you can ask for an introduction," says Deb Silverberg, social communications and strategy manager with AARP for money and work issues. "It's a virtual water cooler for people all across industries."

But you've got to know how to put your best foot forward. Think of it this way: Would you wear a pair of sneakers with a business suit? Not likely.

  • Do register and create a comprehensive profile to increase your visibility. LinkedIn ranks high on Google searches, so make sure that when people find you, they're impressed by what they see.
  • Don't make your profile photo a holiday snapshot with the grandkids. Make it a recent, professional-looking photo of just you.
  • Do participate in LinkedIn groups (alumni networks, previous companies you've worked for). It's a great way to reconnect with former colleagues.
  • Don't overlook the job search function on LinkedIn. After all, that's what the site is for!
  • Do build relationships by being a resource for others first. Pay it forward by using your knowledge and contacts to help someone (without expecting anything in return). Then someone else will help you. You can write recommendations for your coworkers and they can do the same for you.
  • Don't request a connection with someone you don't know, even if you think that person can help you get a foot in the door somewhere. "It's considered poor LinkedIn etiquette and can be considered 'spammy,' " Silverberg says.

Next: Learn how to tweet your way to a new job. »


On Twitter, you post personal thoughts, current news and anything else you hope will be intriguing, all in no more than 140 characters. These messages are known as tweets. They go out to your network of followers, who could be friends or complete strangers.

Of all the social networks, Twitter is probably the least helpful in a job search. Still, it can help you stay up to date on what people, companies and organizations in your occupational field are doing.

  • Don't tweet first and think later. You are what you tweet. An employer can search and find what you've posted. "If you wouldn't want it on page one of your daily newspaper, don't tweet it," Silverberg advises.
  • Do follow leaders in your field, potential employers, your college career center, your college alumni office and career advice sites. Using the site's search function, get career tips and learn about potential employers and developments in your field.
  • Do make your Twitter profile count. You have only 160 characters to work with in a profile, so be creative and to the point. "It's the first impression people will get about you," Silverberg says.
  • Do connect with TweetMyJobs and sign up for its free services. You can choose the cities and job titles you're most interested in, and these will be tweeted to you as they appear. The postings are immediate, so you'll hear about a job before other social platforms will likely have it.
  • Do establish yourself as an expert in your area of interest by tweeting about its latest articles, news and research. If fashion is your thing, tweet out your best tips to followers.
  • Don't create separate Twitter accounts for personal and professional use. It could get confusing and cause you to send a tweet from the wrong account. And from a practical standpoint, you want anyone who finds you to see who you are, from all standpoints. If you're a busy mom who happens to work for a Fortune 500 company, talk about it.
  • Do put a disclaimer in your Twitter bio and profile that your views are your own, not your current employer's.

Next: Should you delete your personal website or blog? »

Personal websites and blogs

The beauty of the Internet is that you can carve out your very own space to promote yourself. Some people turn those Web spaces into business enterprises. For others, it's a way to show off their work — like a résumé but better. Still others blog in their field of professional interest.

As with any other social media platform, if your Web page or blog is public, it's open for employers to see, too. So follow a few a simple rules while you're job hunting.

1. Do make sure your website has the privacy you want. You may want it to be viewable only to those you invite and approve. On the other hand, if your blog is related to the field of your interest, you'll want to make it easy for people to find you. This is a way to market your personal brand.

2. Don't let your website be cluttered or unattractive in other ways. It's only natural that an employer will take it as a reflection of your own work habits.

3. Do make sure your site or blog is optimized to show up in search engine queries. This means tagging your posts with relevant keywords that people use to search online for information on that subject. You can find how often people search for specific keywords at the website Google Adwords.

4. In your résumé, do include a sentence or two or a link to your blog or website if it's relevant to the job you're seeking. For example, if you blog about your dog, there's no need to link the blog to your résumé unless you're applying for a job as a dog groomer.

You may also like: 10 tough interview questions.

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