Here in the Knowledge Center I have been sharing my best tips to help you win your job search. In previous posts I’ve covered the most common interview questions and how to answer them, as well as how to talk about getting fired during an interview. This post is about social media and how it can impact your job search.

Can your social media posts really keep you from getting a job?

A few weeks ago I was interviewing candidates for a job that was based in the Midwest. I spoke with a terrific candidate and he smoothly answered all of my questions. As I was preparing to send his information to the company, I did a quick search for her on social media and what I found made me move his application to the bottom of the pile.

My social media search wasn’t part of an official pre-employment background check but most of the staffing and recruiting people I know have a similar story. I did a little research and I learned that 70% of companies check a candidate’s social media profile during the interview process. The number goes up to 73% among manufacturing companies.

The companies that we work with hire skilled tradespeople for their expertise, but they also want to hire someone who will be a good representative of their company. Whether the organization is a small family run business or a Fortune 500, the company will be judged by how its employees conduct themselves. Companies also have to protect their values. If your posts don’t line up with the culture, then any recruiter worth their salt will be concerned if you will be a good fit.

But social media is about my personal life… 

I’ve had conversations with some candidates about their social media profiles and as you would expect they use social media for laughs, to keep up with loved ones, and to read the news of the day. They also reminded me that they are adults who can say what they want. I understand their points, but let me give you a couple of examples of people who ignored the impact their social media profiles could have on their job search.

My buddy’s daughter was interviewing for her first corporate job. It would have been a great start to her career with a generous salary and excellent benefits. She, like most college students, had posted some pictures of herself from spring break. In several of the photos you could plainly see that she had knocked back a few too many. While that’s not unusual for a 21 yr old college student, the company has a very conservative culture and she was replacing a young person who was frequently late for work because she was out the night before. Thankfully she still got the job, but she had to go through some additional hoops that could have been avoided.

Now here’s an example of where things didn’t go as well. I serve on the board of a local non-profit and we were about to make an offer to a new Executive Director. The organization used social media heavily, especially for fundraising, so one of our board members read through the candidate’s posts on 4 platforms. Some of the stuff that he posted was pretty raunchy and the board decided not to give him an offer. We saw that he could use social media very well, and we felt that would be an asset in the role, but we didn’t want any donors to find his personal accounts while searching for the organization’s.

If our review had shown a few posts that were inappropriate we could have overlooked it but social accounts have become a digital reflection of who we are as people. With every like, share, or comment we are establishing a pattern over time. The pattern is easy to see, easy to find, and easy to misinterpret. Just take a look at all the scandals that have resulted from social media comments in private groups. Somehow they made it into the public eye. Even if the offensive posts are deleted someone captured a screenshot and the next thing you know the post goes viral for all the wrong reasons.

So how can I use social media and still get the job I want?

Some of the people who read this post may want to just delete their profiles. I don’t recommend that. In the same study I mentioned earlier, 47% of the people surveyed would be concerned if they couldn’t find a candidate on any social platforms.

Taking care of the issue is pretty straightforward and I have a checklist of tasks to get you started:

  1. Check your profile picture. Ask yourself what does this photo tell a company about me?
  2. Make sure your background picture is good to go as well.
  3. No nicknames or funny versions of your name. Use your real name on your Social Media profiles.
  4. Check the memes that you have shared. Are all of them something you could show your kids or your grandmother?
  5. Minimize profanity!
  6. Make sure you don’t have more than one or two pics of you with alcohol.

When Herm Edwards was a commentator on ESPN he often spoke about social media. He would always say type your tweet, look at it on your phone and then press delete. In his opinion, there were too many bad things that could happen when you place your thoughts online for everyone to see. Coach Edwards has had moderate success as a coach, but everyone in football respects his character.

We aren’t saying that you can’t enjoy social media, just be careful when you do. Remember that recruiters are sorting through 80-250 applications per job. Most of the applicants will have similar qualifications so we are looking for ways to shrink the list. That’s when little things like social media matter. Don’t let a little thing, that’s easy to address, keep you from getting the job you want. Make it easy for the recruiter to do their job and you win in the end. 

If you are ready to start your job search, create your BlueRecruit profile and let your skills and certifications get noticed by hiring companies near you.