Social media can be a fun part of your day. You get to interact with friends, family and strangers — and maybe if you’re lucky, get a retweet from your favorite celebrity. But as much as you may like to put yourself out there, it can be easy to forget that your public social media accounts are just that: public.
When it comes time to job search, you may find that your social media profiles keep the interviews at bay. Just as social media has changed the way you interact with friends, it’s also changed how recruiters find and qualify potential candidates.
But the answer isn’t to go offline and deactivate your profiles, because as Jayme Pretzloff, director of marketing for Wixon Jewelers points out, “Not being on social media sites can absolutely hurt your chances of being recognized and, ultimately, hired.”
The bottom-line is you need to cultivate a professional and personable online presence. You can find that balance by avoiding these seven social media mistakes.
Abandoning your professional profile
You might have fired up a Twitter account to connect with professionals in your industry and follow influencers and media outlets. Or maybe you finally updated your LinkedIn profile with your work history and relevant information. That’s great, just don’t forget to update it. Recruiters and hiring managers will be happy to see that you are active on social media, but they might not be impressed if you aren’t updating it on a somewhat regular basis. In a survey of 400 executives by The Creative Group, 34 percent of respondents said job seekers make the mistake of not updating their professional profiles.
Social networks are about being social and interacting, not lurking in the corners watching others have conversations. Once you get used to whatever platform you’ve adopted, try engaging with other users. You might not get a response from everyone, but it’s a great way to show potential recruiters that you’re not only getting out there, but you’re starting conversations and interacting with industry leaders. Pretzloff suggests that you follow companies you’d want to work for yourself, check out job search feeds and start following some recruiters. The more you build a profile that reflects your career aspirations, the more likely you are to connect with people in the industry who can open doors.
Not building an audience
Building audience goes back to engaging with other users on Twitter, and it’s important to show recruiters and hiring managers that you are capable of growing an audience. It’s not about having thousands of followers, either, because that can oftentimes be out of your control. But it’s about cultivating a quality audience, says Samuel Scott, director of marketing and communications at Logz.io. “Has the person built a real audience? If so, how — and could the same strategy be applied to our company?” says Scott. By utilizing your social media profiles effectively, it can demonstrate your ability to adapt to new technology, and that is a valuable asset for any company.
Don’t be offensive
This should go without saying, but you really don’t want to be offensive, especially on your public accounts. Clare Hart, CEO of SterlingBackcheck, says her company looks for red flags that include gestures or displays of weapons that might be deemed offensive, anything illegal, excessive profanity and sexually explicit material. Even if you didn’t mean something to be offensive, you should consider that the person reading your profiles might not know your sense of humor or personality, and anything you say might be taken out of context. Basically, if it’d be tagged as NSFW (not safe for work) on one of your favorite websites, don’t post it.
Don’t bash your current or past employers
You’ve had a bad day at work, where is the first place you turn to vent? It better not be your social media account. Val Matta, vice president of business development at CareerShift, says that if a recruiter or hiring manager sees you’ve bashed your employer, they won’t have any reason to think you won’t do the same to their company if they hire you. You want to be careful even if you think your account is private. Security and privacy settings can change, especially on sites like Facebook, and you never know who might be mixed in among your followers. So the next time your boss makes you work late, take it off line and call your friend and hash it out over the phone or a cup of coffee.
Don’t misrepresent yourself
Much of what you share online is part of cultivating your image, whether it’s true to yourself or not. But when it comes to your job search, recruiters might look to your social media profiles to discover who you really are outside of a professional interview. Megan Ingenbrant, PR specialist from eZanga, keeps an eye out for a lot of partying photos, tweets about disliking your job and instances of oversharing. She feels these can reflect a candidate’s work ethic and reliability, two very important aspects of a potential candidate.
You don’t want to come off as negative to recruiters and hiring managers, because it will probably make you seem like someone they don’t want to work with. Try to keep your posts and image positive by sharing your hobbies, being considerate and presenting yourself as a well-rounded person, says Stephanie Abrams and Courtney Spitzer, COO and CEO of SocialFly. They say you should always assume employers are looking at your profiles, because even if they aren’t, it’s the right mindset to have when using your social accounts.
The rule of thumb
If you still aren’t sure how to go about maintaining a professional appearance online, Rob Holmes, CEO of IPCybercrime has one golden rule: “My rule of thumb is, basically, any behavior your mother disapproved of should probably not be public.”