Hiring Managers Are Definitely Googling You. Here’s How to Impress Them
Looking for a job can be stressful.
You polish your resume, craft cover letters, fill out dozens of repetitive application forms and prepare for future interviews in hopes that the combination of all these efforts will appeal to a hiring manager who’ll offer you a job you’ll love.
But are you overlooking a significant factor that could hurt — or help — you in the process?
CareerBuilder surveyed over 2,300 hiring managers and human resources professionals and found 70% turn to social media to screen job candidates before offering a position.
Have you considered the impression your social media presence is making on future employers?
Your Online Presence Matters
“For the most part, and for better or worse, employers are searching for candidates online before they ever call them for an interview,” said Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs.
“Some employers find it more appealing or easier to learn about a candidate through their online profiles rather than just their resume and cover letter,” she said. “Some are looking to confirm the data you’ve given them in your application materials. And if the job you’re applying for is a front-facing role, employers are looking to see if you would be a good representative of their company.”
Reynolds said LinkedIn is typically her go-to source to learn more about job candidates, but she has also turned to Google searches for further investigation.
Bryan Chaney, director of employer brand at Indeed, said job seekers should make sure to search their own names (and all of its variants) online.
“Any good recruiter or human resources professional will paste a candidate’s name into a search engine if they are in serious consideration for a role,” he said. “Be aware of your digital footprint so you can take action to clean up or explain what a recruiter may find.”
What Happens Online Doesn’t Stay Online
Since potential employers are seeking you out, it’s important to make sure the content you post doesn’t draw any red flags.
“In a recent CareerBuilder survey, employers that did not hire a candidate based on their social media presence cited seeing provocative or inappropriate content, drinking and drug use, discriminatory comments and bad-mouthing a previous employer,” said Ladan Hayes, senior career advisor at CareerBuilder.
Fifty-four percent of those surveyed said a job candidate’s social media profile led them to not offer a job.
Chaney said highly polarizing views are also problematic when it comes to reviewing a candidate’s background.
“Having a personal perspective is important, but having that opinion drive all of someone’s decisions is dangerous, especially when the role has any level of public visibility,” he said.
Lack of professionalism is another thing to be aware of.
“Ditch that cropped college party photo and get a proper headshot that you can use across networks,” Chaney advised. “Consistency in your image and your message will help showcase your personal brand management skills and show that you care.”
Social Media is NOT the Enemy
Now if you think the easy solution would be to delete all your social media accounts or take a moratorium on posting anything online, you might want to think twice.
“Old or outdated information (or dormant profiles) are also red flags, as maintaining a personal presence online is now a priority,” Chaney said. “If you haven’t kept your profiles up to date, will you finish what you started on the job?”
Reynolds said having no online presence — not even a basic LinkedIn profile — is cause for concern for employers.
“So many of today’s jobs are based in the knowledge economy, which requires a good amount of activity online,” she said. “If an employer thinks you aren’t very active online, they may (rightly or wrongly) think you aren’t up to date when it comes to skills and knowledge.”
While a lack of an online presence is frowned upon, restricting access to certain accounts may be more acceptable.
“I’ve never heard of employers worrying about candidates who have blocked or protected social media accounts,” Reynolds said. “If anything, it shows that you’ve savvy enough to protect yourself online.”
Chaney said Instagram and Facebook pages are more commonly restricted, but blocked accounts could give the impression that the person may have something to hide.
Show Yourself in the Best Light
Reynolds said the key to making social media work for you during the job application process is to make sure your online presence is consistent with your professional persona.
“[Social media] is actually an opportunity for a candidate to stand out,” she said. “On a resume, you are limited as to what you show employers. But online, you can create a very detailed portrait of yourself as a professional.”
Reynolds recommends taking advantage of LinkedIn’s features to highlight your skills and expertise, include links to projects you’ve worked on and write or share articles relevant to your field. She said Twitter is a great platform for interacting in casual, but memorable, ways with other professionals in your line of work, including recruiters and hiring managers.
“Candidates whose content show off their great communication skills, professional qualifications and creativity can impress their potential employers,” Hayes said.
“Personality cues that show up in social media content should help tell the rest of the story that your resume or CV can’t,” Chaney said. “If you have a passion for social or charitable causes and the hiring manager is looking for someone committed to a purpose-driven mission, there’s a natural alignment for the job.
“If it’s a marketing or communications role, staying up to date on recent developments or news around an industry topic will show that you care and that you’re already paying attention to what matters to your future boss.”
It’s Not Over Once You’re Hired
It’s vital to note, maintaining a positive online presence after you get the job is still important, especially if you’re socially connected to your co-workers or superiors.
“Just because you got the job doesn’t mean you can disregard what you post online,” Hayes said. “More than half of employers (51%) use social media sites to research current employees.”
CareerBuilder’s survey found 34% of employers have reprimanded or fired an employee based on content discovered online.
“If you decide to become ‘friends’ with your boss on Facebook, you have to assume that they will see everything you post,” Reynolds said. “And even if it’s unfair, they may associate your posts as a reflection of you as a professional. We’ve seen lots of examples of people being fired because of the things they post online — offensive comments, inappropriate pictures, risky social media handles, you name it.”
But not all career professionals think your online presence should be under scrutiny after you’re hired.
“Unless they are in entertainment or hired as a public figure, an employee’s social media presence is their business,” Chaney said. “The only time it should be a concern is when speaking about confidential company matters and airing grievances directly with [or] about their coworkers and potential supervisor.”
Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s still finding her place amongst social media channels.