These days, social media has the power to make or break your job search. That's because hiring managers will often check your LinkedIn page before meeting you, and what they see could determine if that interview ever happens. Here's what you need to know about social media when you're job searching.
If you're an active participant online, you can use digital platforms, from LinkedIn to Twitter to Facebook, to highlight your personality and qualifications to show what you could bring to a workplace. But employers can also use social media platforms to learn things about you that you'd rather they didn't know.
So if you're in 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. In some cases, that might mean simply tightening your privacy settings on Facebook.
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.
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.
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. For extra protection, you can turn on two-factor authentication, which requires an additional code send to your phone each time you log on.
- 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.
- Do 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.
- Do "like" or "join" Facebook pages of companies or organizations that interest you, as a way of staying abreast of news and promotions.
If Facebook had a professional sister, her name would be LinkedIn. 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.
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 may help you. You can write recommendations for your coworkers and they can do the same for you.
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, as well as build your professional reputation as a thought leader.
- Don't tweet first and think later. You are what you tweet. An employer can search and find what you've posted, since posts are public (unless you opt to keep your account private).
- 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 establish yourself as an expert in your area of interest by tweeting about its latest articles, news and research.
- 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.
Personal websites and blogs
The beauty of the internet is that you can carve out your own space to promote yourself on a website or blog. 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 simple rules while you're job hunting:
- 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.
- Don't let your website be cluttered. It's only natural that an employer will take it as a reflection of your own work habits and technology skills. Many online platforms, from SquareSpace to WordPress, make it easy to create a professional-looking website, even if you aren't a tech expert.
- 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.
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. It could give you a leg up over the competition.