Let’s cover the basics first. Does it REALLY matter? A Careerbuilder.com survey shows that 51% of employers who check social media (which, let’s face it, EVERYONE checks social media these days) chose not to hire candidates based on things they found online. This statistic means that over half of employers these days are essentially using social media as part of the interview/screening process. They can get to know you, your strengths, weaknesses, friends, interests, (and sometimes even dirty laundry) on their own time.
The interview is no longer your first impression, your social media is.
But what are they looking for exactly? What is it that pushes an otherwise qualified candidate into the “unhirable” category? It really depends on the company. Think company culture, values, and industry setting/ expectations. If you’re applying at a casual restaurant in the city, they may not blink an eye at pictures of you out at restaurants or other nightlife settings socializing (this is NOT to say that certain things just shouldn’t be posted at all; i.e. blatant over consumption of alcohol, hardcore partying, anything even remotely drug related, etc.). However, the same restaurant may be appalled to find tweets of you bashing your last boss, employees, or coworkers, as camaraderie and team work are key in the food & beverage world. On the other hand, office-based jobs may wish for you to refrain from posting pictures in potentially compromising settings at all.
I want to diffuse two thoughts that may be building in your mind:
a). Do not think the safest way out of this is to have NO online presence (i.e. deleting all of your accounts entirely). Now, more than ever, employers want to see that you can navigate these digital platforms successfully.
b). Yes, an employer has every right to look at this information, just as you have every right to look at the company’s online persona! Go ahead, check out their Instagram, their LinkedIn, see what they’re all about. This is how you both assess cultural fit. Remember, if you post it online, you’ve chosen to make it available for all to see.
So where do you start cleaning up your social media? Here are a few quick tips to get you started!
1. Pick and choose which social media sites to make private, and which to keep public. Yes, public. Despite swirling rumors that suggest we should all be unsearchable and nonexistent online, this can actually hurt you just as much as having a negative image. We’re human, we’re meant to interact. Imagine you’re trying to decide whether or not to loan someone money. Are you going to choose the individual with a horrible credit score or the one with no established credit at all? Correct answer: neither. You have the money, and you can wait for a good, credible individual to come along. The employers have the jobs, and they are fully capable of hiring a candidate that knows how to use their social media in their favor. So why not be that person? Linkedin is usually the safest one to keep completely public, as it is a professional networking tool (and if you’re not on LinkedIn yet stop reading, go make one immediately, and resume when finished)!
2. Do yourself a favor and Google your own name. As silly as this sounds, you’ll be able to see what any employer would while doing the same. I once worked for a company in which the employer specifically asked me to check each candidate’s Facebook before he called them back for an interview. Do not feel weird asking people to untag you from those pictures at the club from six years ago. You might even come across an old Myspace account you forgot existed from back when you may have been ever so slightly less careful about your online image.
3. Even some “harmless” opinions have a better home than your Facebook status. Politics and controversial news may seem like a safe route to go, but what if your boss has the polar opposite view of the situation? We all know how awkward it can be having a conversation with someone who just does NOT see your side. Don’t make the mistake of putting your boss and coworkers in this boat by forcing them to view your opinion online. A great rule of thumb when expressing your opinions online is to keep it positive! If you’d like to express your views, try to keep it positive.
4. Avoid arguing/ venting/ slander AT ALL COSTS! Nothing looks worse than the person who can’t control themselves when they’re not even face to face. How would they handle themselves during challenges at work? Most employers aren’t going to want to find out.
Have questions about what’s appropriate/ inappropriate on social media? Leave us a comment!
– Aubri, RHT South