You’ve researched your industry and updated your resume. Your cover letter template is ready to customize, and you’ve got a couple of dream job listings as open tabs on your desktop. You’re almost ready to declare yourself a job seeker. But you already know there’s a nagging detail you’ve got to take care of first: making your social media profiles worthy of a potential employer’s scrutinizing gaze. The conventional wisdom used to say to “go dark”: Locking, deleting, and upping the privacy settings on all of your accounts was the safest bet when it came to social media. After all, what a potential employer couldn’t see couldn’t hurt us. But career experts and human resource specialists are seeing a new trend emerge — one that values your Twitter feed and Instagram profiles as potential avenues for professional connections that you might not want to shut down. Your social media could also be a signal to potential employers that you’re a real person; someone who’s easy to work with and fun to be around.
“While some people simply make all of their social media profiles private in order to avoid the prying eyes of potential employers,” points out Peter Yang, co-founder of professional resume writing service ResumeGo, “a superior strategy is to take the time to meticulously curate all of your accounts so that you can make all of your profiles public to anyone who searches your name. This way, you can have your cake and eat it too by showing that you’d be a fun and interesting person to work with, while also revealing that you are free from any habits or addictions that could potentially be frowned upon.”
Step 1: Keep a Low (Facebook) Profile
Most hiring professionals and career specialists we spoke with agreed that no good can come of leaving your Facebook profile open for public view. While you might do a thorough job scrubbing anything unsavory from your past, other people’s postings on your wall and disagreeable comments on what you share might give employers the wrong impression about the company you keep. If the industry you work in is small, it’s also very possible that you have friends in common with potential future coworkers, which can change what they’re able to see when they look at your page.
If you really value having a public Facebook profile, at the very least update the privacy settings so that only you can add to the “wall” of your feed and view new photos that you’re tagged in. Carefully choose the header photo and featured photos in your Facebook’s sidebar so that they showcase things that humanize you: fun hobbies, time with family, or a great trip you took.
Step 2: Brand For the Best Result
Kristina Libby, the founder of PR platform and professional consultation firm SoCu, emphasizes that social media feeds can make you a stand-out job candidate if managed correctly. “Social media should enhance your resume, not detract from it,” Libby tells us. But how do we make our feeds a welcoming space for recruiters and HR departments? The key is to narrow in on the aspects of ourselves we would most like to spotlight.
“Think of your social media channels like a brand,” suggests Libby. Personal branding might sound intimidating, sterile, and boring. But Libby believes it can be simple and authentic. “Brands have two or three pillars that they focus on to help people understand what their brand stands for. Want to be known for music, books, and feminism? Post about those topics.” By zeroing in on the topics you most want to post about, she says, “you will control how people see you.”
Step 3: Give Your Bio a Promotion
The age-old adage “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” can be applied to Instagram and Twitter bios, according to Kris Ruby, a social media expert and the CEO of Ruby Media Group. “Your bio on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter should reflect the role that you are seeking.” Your social media descriptors can reinforce to hiring managers that you are who you say you are. “For example,” Ruby elaborates, “if you are seeking a luxury marketing job in Westchester, NY, your bio should say ‘Luxury Marketing Specialist — Westchester, NY’; not ‘Fashion Marketing, NYC’. Create a profile for the job you want to get so that your brand matches up on every network to coincide with your resume.”
It’s never a good idea to lie or exaggerate your experience on your resume or on any social media platform. But certainly resist the urge to minimize yourself or be vague in the top heading of your feeds. “About Me” fields on social media are what Ruby calls “prime real estate” for employers taking a quick glance at their job candidates.
Step 4: Stay Engaged
A quick way to show yourself as tech-savvy, competent, and knowledgeable about your industry is to use Twitter as a networking device. There are no criteria for who can hop into a Twitter conversation or use a trending hashtag, and there’s also no telling when a short or pithy quote could take off and go viral. Keep your commentary politically neutral and be mindful that the world is reading (and remembering) what you tweet. In the best-case scenario, your comment might get you some attention or a follow-back from a big name in your field. Also, it’s fun!
Heather Taylor, a communications coordinator at MyCorporation, points out the value of finding and following industry professionals on Twitter. “Join in Twitter chats,” she encourages. “These are fulfilling on both a professional and personal level. Professionally, you can share your commentary in the industry you’re a pro in (or an industry you want to eventually become an expert in) and get on the radar of countless influencers. Personally, you can network and form lasting relationships with other Twitter users, which helps build up your following.” And speaking of following…
Step 5: Ignore the Numbers
Unless you’re applying for a job as a social media specialist or content creator, chances are that having a low follower count won’t impact your perception to potential future employers. In fact, it can send positive messages: that you’re not obsessed with curating an online cult following and that you’re a person that knows both how to use the internet and when to disconnect and get work done. So don’t be discouraged if personal branding and #hashtags turn out not to be your gift. There are advantages to having a big social media network to draw from, but there are big and real drawbacks to having one too.
“Social media” has gotten a lot of lip service over the last few years as we’ve discovered and been changed by new technologies. But it’s possible that today’s popular social media platforms will continue to evolve and adopt different forms over time. Put simply, don’t invest all of your time in getting followers by using platforms that could crumble, close, or fall out of favor. Your strongest career asset will always be you.
How has social media affected your job search? Share your story with us on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)