Job Searching with Social Media

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (2017), over one-third of organizations have disqualified a job candidate because they had “concerning information” present on their social media profile or show up through an online search. Does that mean we should delete all of our accounts? Probably not. The same report states that at the time, 84% of organizations used social media to recruit passive candidates for positions with more planning to do so in the future. How can we attract the right kind of attention?

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the webinar “The social job seeker: Using social media to land your next job” through Drexel University with Professor Susan Magee, Instructor of Communication in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences. She loves the positive potential social media has for job seekers and reminded everyone that your dream job is probably out there waiting for you, but you never know if you don’t look. Here are some of her tips for leveraging that potential.

First, it’s good to know what employers are seeing on social media that cause them to gain or lose interest in a candidate. A 2018 Jobvite Recruiter Survey discloses that recruiters reported looking for the following as negative indications on social media:

  • References to marijuana (58%)
  • Political rants (47%)
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes (43%)
  • Pictures of alcohol consumption (42%)

Instead, they are looking for:

  • Engagement in local/national organization groups (60%)
  • Examples of written or design work (58%)
  • Mutual connections (36%)

Magee also noted that in the social screening process, recruiters are looking for any information that will support your qualifications, display effective communication, and match your resume. Not only do recruiters expect you to reflect professionalism, but the expect to find you in the first place. A 2018 CareerBuilder survey reports that nearly half of employers say they are less likely to call a person in for an interview if they can’t find them online at all.

What steps can you take to ensure that recruiters will like what they see, potentially even reaching out to you first?

Step One:  Search.

Start by Googling yourself. Now is your opportunity to clean up and lock down your accounts. If you find any old accounts, either refurbish and keep them up to date or delete them. Review the content on all accounts that you are keeping for inappropriate content. Are any of the negative indications from above present? Have you posted any off-the-cuff comments complaining about work, or being tired, or anything at all during the work day? Clear it out. Start to regularly check your privacy settings; things change all the time, and you it’s possible some aspects of your profile are not as locked down as they were when initially setting it up. Similarly, check your share settings. Your profile may be locked down, but if a friend is tagged in something or it is shared, it may be accessible publicly.

Step Two: Optimize.

Make your profile look how recruiters would want it to look. Make sure it’s complete, consistent, and professional. Professor Magee walked us through the components of a LinkedIn profile as an example. Use a professional profile photo and cover photo. Don’t just use the default cover photo, and avoid college graduation pictures as your profile picture. You want to look professional and experienced, not like you’re fresh out of school (even if you are). Include your location on your profile, because many recruiters use it to search. Instead of your official job title, use keywords to represent your skill and field areas in your headline to take advantage of search engine optimization. Carefully craft your brand statement to capture your work ethic, character, special skills, depth of experience, and unique strengths. List both professional and volunteer experiences, but put professional first. Consider organizing them by relevance, not chronology. Don’t just list your education section, but pad it out with information about why you chose your school or major, courses you loved, leadership opportunities, and relevant links or documents. Focus on 5 top skills that you want endorsed and ask former employers or professors to endorse that specific skill, but keep in mind that not all recruiters look at this section. If you’re job searching, let LinkedIn know by turning on “open candidates” from your preferences and recruiters will know you are quietly looking.

Step Three: Maintain.

Keep your profiles ready, even after you find a job. Build your personal brand (more information in Magee’s presentation “Personal Branding in 5 Doable Steps”). Post content that recruiters would want to see. Keep an eye on your privacy settings. Maintain your network—they’re valuable both while searching and as a personal learning network. Interact with companies and organizations in which you’re interested. Share your accomplishments humbly. Keep everything up to date, and be helpful to others on social media. You never know who might be watching.

Many thanks to both Professor Susan Magee and Drexel University for providing this webinar. View it for yourself here (requires information sharing). Do you have thoughts about hiring practices involving social media? Share them in the comments below!


Kerri Milliken is a MSLIS candidate at the College of Computing and Informatics at Drexel University. Kerri currently works as a learning and development specialist for a public library system in Pennsylvania.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

1 reply

  1. Search. Optimize. Maintain. These are three key points that I do agree with and I would also like to add one. Connect. It’s just not about looking up your own profile, cleaning it up and keeping it current, it’s also about reaching out to those in your network. Maybe John Smith, who you haven’t spoken to in two years just moved onto a new position and is looking for someone with your expertise. Reaching out to your contacts and maintaining that connection can also land you in your next endeavor.

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