Social media has become an important tool for job seekers.
Online adepts may intuitively understand this, but for many people this may come as a surprise. Where Facebook (FB - Get Report) and Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) began as simple tools for social interaction, today they're a critical part of your online presence. Tech-savvy employers ask for information like Twitter handles and Instagram names as part of the application process, and as many as 92% of all companies say they use some form of social media as part of the hiring process.
"One of the first things a hiring manager will do is look you up on their favorite social network," said Bryan Chaney, director of employer brand at Indeed.com. "The more we're encouraged to bring our whole selves to work, the more that the line between personal and professional on social media is increasingly blurred."
Like it or not, a good social media presence can be key to professional advancement. Here are ten ways you can help improve yours on the next job hunt.
Worst advice ever?
Step one to using any tool is to simply not ignore it, and that's the case with social media as well. That's not as simple as it seems.
For most people a job-search is time consuming and stressful enough. Between finding suitable positions, customizing your resume, writing a cover letter and drafting the introductory email, just looking for a full time job can feel like one in and of itself. (Indeed, by some estimates it can take up to 25 hours per week.) Throw in networking and handling polite post-interview notes and who has the time to manage their social media universe?
On the job hunt social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It's pure, passive advertising, a giant billboard by which employers can find you on their own and others can dig up your worst secrets. Take the time to make sure that they like what they see.
"Make sure your visible public profile is at least 'business casual' - whether it's a social site used for job search, or not," said Chaney.
It might be sad, but social media isn't just for friends anymore. Anything that you post on the internet should be considered a public broadcast, whether it's a comment on someone's wall or a blog post.
So the first thing you need to do in any job search is make sure that those broadcasts are public- and business-friendly. Lock up your privacy settings on the networks you use purely for friends and fun. Make sure to clean up any posts that might reflect negatively on you and take down pictures that might turn someone away. Google yourself extensively to make sure nothing has cropped up in a dark corner of the internet.
Even behind a privacy wall, you can never be too careful. One of the worst things that can happen to your job search is an employer who tumbles upon that one picture from Spring Break. They'll probably never tell you why nobody called back.
And that picture? Keep it in a photo album to reminisce over in private.
Just as bad as posting injudicious content can be building an unprofessional network. Make sure that every aspect of your social media presence reflects your best self. This includes checking into the details.
For example, make sure your username doesn't come across as offensive or juvenile, and scan your profiles for followers with potentially offensive associations. Your employer probably won't check your Twitter account that carefully, but you don't want them seeing you following (or followed by) someone truly offensive just in case.
They might never notice, but don't take that chance.
And don't use Facebook to send professional messages. Even LinkedIn is questionable. Unless you've got a good reason to do otherwise, contact employers with good, old fashioned email -- preferably not a Hotmail account.
You don't need to live on social media to get a good job these days, but paying attention to one platform can really boost your profile among employers who look.
Depending on industry and personal image there are many different ways to do that. Photographers or designers, for example, could take advantage of Instagram. Twitter has versatility and power for users who want to make a smart, consistent footprint. Medium allows space for job seekers who might not want to handle the volume of a Twitter feed.
Managing your social media presence isn't just about what you take out; it's also about what you put in. By focusing on one platform you can avoid pulling yourself in a dozen different directions at once, while also giving a potential employer something truly impressive to find.
Believe it or not, LinkedIn matters.
Nearly half of all internet users with a college degree use the site, and 41% of those who earn more than $75,000 per year do. Beyond than that, according to Forbes a whopping 98% of recruiters say they use the site and 85% of all hiring managers.
You can't afford to skip LinkedIn, and why would you? This site offers tremendous potential return for the few hours you'll give to it. Take the time to build a clean, professional looking profile that reflects your accomplishments and current skills. If you can find an opportunity to post about once a week, that's even better, but start small.
When professional contacts and hiring staff start looking for you, this is probably where they'll begin. Give them something helpful to find.
The trouble with social media is that you're limited by what the platforms offer. For job seekers who want to expand their footprint a little bit more, consider building a dedicated blog or website.
You can do this any number of ways, including through Wix or Wordpress. For many job seekers, a personal website is a good opportunity to post a resume and expand upon personal accomplishments in a more customized space. Others might want to take advantage of building a blog or photo gallery.
The value of a personal website can vary depending on industry. Certain jobs, such as writers and artists, will get more out of it than others, but no one should entirely ignore the value of getting to build his own space and tell his own story.
Everyone knows that person on Facebook who only posts self-congratulatory updates. Their feed is nothing more than a string of announcements about some new project, new article, new Kickstarter and more. Don't be that person.
Social media is best used for generating real content. There's nothing wrong with announcing your accomplishments or linking people to your work elsewhere, but a good social media presence needs to be more than that.
For accounts that you want employers to see, work to build substantive and informed activity. Link to third party work that speaks to your industry. Comment on changes and make observations that relate to the kind of jobs you'd like to get. Like building a good LinkedIn profile, this doesn't have to take much time. In fact, as few as one to five posts per month can help set your profile apart. It will help you stand out from people who have nothing more interesting to say.
Social media is filled with professional organizations. Use them.
When building your profile on LinkedIn look for industry groups relevant to your work. Take advantage of them as a chance to build connections and start learning about what hiring managers need.
More locally, look for groups that meet near and around your area. Social networks can help you build connections in real life as well by finding people near and around you in the same industry. Even something as simple as a happy hour or a game of cards can help you meet people and build your professional network. With 85 percent of jobs filled via networking, those introductions are more critical than ever.
Then, use these networks to stay in touch with people you've met.
"One of the best ways to leverage social media for your job hunt it to monitor third-party sites that offer reviews and ratings from current and former employees" said Chaney. "Are they listening and responding like humans? Companies that are interacting and invested in their reviews care a lot about their company culture and overall happiness of their people."
Social media includes crowd sourced information sites such as Reddit, Indeed and Glassdoor. Pay attention to these outlets. What past and present employees have to say can tell you a lot about what life is like at a given company.
Perhaps the single most important way to approach your social media presence is this: keep a consistent brand. This brand is how you present yourself. What is your expertise? What do you care most about? How do you write, and who do you tend to approach?
Whatever job you want, choose how you want to present yourself and keep that presentation consistent. You don't want to be a full stack engineer on LinkedIn, an aspiring chef on Pinterest and a part time model on Instagram. Don't write in terse, professional sentences on one platform and drop vaguely dirty jokes on another.
Does that mean you can't have any interests? Certainly not. Employers neither need nor want mono-dimensional people, and there's nothing wrong with having that Pinterest board that shows your love of baking.
However there's a fine line between someone with outside interests and someone who doesn't know who they are or what they want. An employer wants to see that you're committed to your given industry, not trying on three or four different hats to see which sticks.