You may have heard it rumored that hiring managers look at social media sites before making their decisions about job candidates. Well, the facts don’t lie: 65 percent of employers check social media to see if a candidate presents himself or herself professionally, according to a survey conducted by Careerbuilder.com.
But if you’ve been on tour in Afghanistan or building bridges in Guatemala for the last several years, being a professional on social media was understandably the last thing on your mind. Regardless of your experience or job history, keeping your social media profiles professional can save you from the embarrassment of losing out on a great opportunity because you're being a social media misfit.
To that end, here are 10 simple social media do’s and don’ts that will help you sidestep those kinds of pitfalls and help you stay a step ahead of your career competitors.
1. Get active on LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter
Ninety-four percent of recruiters are using LinkedIn to discover talent, while 65 percent are using Facebook and 55 percent are on Twitter. Involvement on these sites is an easy way to put your face, resume, skills and experiences in front of recruiters.
2. Highlight your unique skills & interests
Employers want to see that you’re a well-rounded person, vested in different groups, activities and volunteer efforts. Just like the rest of us, recruiters are typing in keywords when they search, so within your skill sets be sure to include specific words and phrases that match the qualifications of jobs you are seeking.
“If you choose to leave social media content public, tailor the message to your advantage,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of HR at Career Builder. “Filter out anything that can tarnish your professional reputation and [be sure to] post communications, links and photos that portray you in the best possible light.”
3. Use correct grammar
More than half of recruiters had a negative reaction to grammar and spelling mistakes on candidates’ social media profiles, according to a 2013 study conducted by web recruiting firm Jobvite.
4. Join industry groups
Show future employers that you care about the field you’re hoping to get into. Whether it’s writing for Cat Fancy or working for the hottest new Fortune 500, take part in online groups and discussions that are relevant to your future job prospects. “Four out of five recruiters liked to see memberships and affiliations with professional organizations on a candidate’s profile,” according to Time magazine.
5. Start a discussion
Whether you’re most active on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, display your leadership skills and enhance your online credibility by posing questions frequently and engaging in intelligent dialogue.
1. Post inappropriate images
In 2013, 43 percent of employers who used social media to screen potential candidates said they found content that caused them not to hire. Half of these employers pointed the finger at provocative or inappropriate photos or content as the reason for their decision.
2. Post overly opinionated content
Try to remain neutral, especially when it comes to political and religious issues. It’s really easy to come off as extreme, close-minded or judgmental when posting highly opinionated content. By all means have opinions! Just share them tactfully.
3. Complain about current or past employers
The 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and that gives you the right to discuss a host of different issues with friends, colleagues and co-workers online. But when it comes to berating you old manager or slandering your last employer, ask yourself if it’s really worth it.
If you’re disgruntled because you would have preferred Starbucks over Caribou coffee in the break room or an Apple computer versus a PC on your desk, grow up. Avoid posting complaints online that could potentially be viewed by future employers as trivial or petty. Put yourself in their shoes—would you hire someone constantly complaining for all to see?
4. Be offensive
Steer clear of posting, tweeting or commenting on anything that could potentially be offensive or harassing. It might sound like common sense but, sadly, it happens far too often to leave off the list. Staying primarily neutral and keeping your comments, likes and shares appropriate should protect you from having to wonder if what you post might be seen as inappropriate or offensive.
5. Spend too much time on social media
After harnessing your online persona, go out and live it!
As you take control of your online presence, don’t forget to take the next steps to actually becoming a marketplace professional. Educate yourself; get involved in discussions; bring about change; help out with community projects; join industry groups; and work towards a degree.
The bottom line
The social media do’s and don’ts in this list may seem intuitive or even obvious. But research shows that despite the importance of being professional online, too few college students are heeding the experts’ advice—and it’s costing them job prospects.
As you start down the journey of becoming a professional online, following suit off-line will be a natural progression and prepare you for life after college.
Once you’ve mastered social media etiquette, check out Rasmussen College’s new career aptitude test to confirm that your dream job corresponds with the skills and experiences you’re developing.