Social media is an indispensable part of people’s lives. It’s impossible to not have some kind of digital footprint, especially since most people use these platforms as a way to keep in touch with friends and family.
It is this pervasiveness of social media that has led to the rise of recruiters conducting social media screenings to gauge viable candidates. In fact, research conducted by the London School of Economics shows that employers use social media to aid in most recruitment efforts, from advertising open roles to seeking referrals. This is proving difficult for some candidates to manage, as it can be a challenge to separate your personal online persona from that of your professional life.
Indeed, there’s a huge degree of freedom in how many social media apps are available to us nowadays, which means people are still figuring out what it means to craft a professional online presence versus a personal one. Revealing photos, excessive profanity, and gossip about co-workers are widely known as off-limits, and most social media users know better than to post this sort of thing. Where people get caught, however, is when it comes to posts that are fine as personal updates but not appropriate when it comes to a professional setting.
So whether you’re a heavy social media user or someone who frequently forgets to update your profile, here are some lesser-known mistakes that you should avoid at all costs:
Completely locking yourself away
If you’re applying for jobs, it could be tempting to set all your accounts to private mode in an attempt to hide any revealing (or even just embarrassing) photos from employers. Coming up as an empty search result, however, could raise more concern than alleviate it: It’s a given that everyone has some kind of social media presence, which means that not having one could make you appear suspect.
This article from Guiding Tech underlines the importance of familiarising yourself with the different privacy settings social media platforms have. While it’s normal to want to keep your personal accounts private, at least having a photo of yourself on your social media accounts ensures employers that you are a real person versus a fake account or a bot, both of which are now very common.
Not distinguishing between accounts
That said, balance is key when it comes to maintaining your online presence. Special Counsel’s guide to professional headshots for social media emphasises the need to know how to present yourself across different platforms. You’re welcome to post silly photos on your Facebook and Instagram accounts, as these are made for personal use. Services such as Twitter and LinkedIn are more work and research-oriented, however, so it’s best to put your best professional foot forward on these sites.
This tip is not to discourage you from sharing photos of yourself on social media. After all, as mentioned earlier, these platforms are made first and foremost for connecting people. Just remember to use discretion when deciding what image of you to present — so act like a future boss or co-worker is looking (as they probably are).
Forgetting that social media is more than just photos
Here on CareerExperts we have written at length about how companies are leveraging a wide range of apps when it comes to recruiting candidates, so what you post is just as important as how you look. When you look up social media etiquette rules, most of them centre around taking care of what kinds of photos you post. These rules are good to keep in mind, but they’re not the be-all-end-all of social media.
Rather than being scared of what employers might find on your social media accounts, use this opportunity to make your accounts speak for you. Reposting news articles that you find interesting, (respectfully) engaging in online debates, and even sharing your thoughts on a particular issue are all ways to show employers that you’re engaged with the world around you, not just sequestering yourself into your own social media bubble. This can also help you showcase your own skills and network, so don’t be afraid to post about things you believe in and engage with your community.