icon_marketing_blogCareer_20x20.svg Career  |  March 23, 2020  |  Laurie Barba

Job Seekers: How Social Media Can Help (and Hurt) You

What you’ll learn
  • How to use social media to your advantage in the job market
  • What to avoid posting on your accounts

Searching for a job is now a two-way street. Not only can you find out everything about your potential employer, they can also look past your résumé and find a ton about you, too. Where you go to get your favorite pizza, whether you like go out on worknights, who you cheered for in the big game, etc. The power of social media is real.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, and more plan to start. Additionally, of those employers that do social research, 57% have found content that caused them not to hire candidates. That’s huge.

Here are some social media do’s and don’ts to help you land and keep a job:

1. Pause before you post

Ask yourself, “If the rest of the world saw this, what would they think of me?” If the answer is anything besides, “They would think I’m a smart, funny, Beyoncé-loving mom 😂,” don’t post it. All jokes aside, how you are perceived on social media matters. I know what you are thinking, “What if my account is private?" It doesn’t matter. While you may think all your followers are your friends, some of those same people that you consider “friends” might be offended by your content, even just once, and save it — or worse, share it.

Instead of hitting the “Tweet” button, it’s sometimes helpful to write your thoughts down, whether it be in a text to yourself, or on a piece of paper, and then delete it or rip it up. This way, you get the opportunity to express your feelings to yourself, without repercussions for making your feelings public. Even if you decide to post something on your account and delete it later, screenshots are a thing and the internet is forever.

2. Show your true colors

Whether you’re a dog lover, an authority in the sports world, or an expert in personal finance, there are groups and broader social media conversations that discuss the same interests as you. Don’t be shy to show your true personality on your social channels. If you want to be trendy or reserved, the choice is yours! This can help recruiters gauge if you’d be a good fit within a company’s culture.

For example, I often participate in #SMTLive, a Twitter chat that takes place twice a month and explores the evolution of social media. By being an active participant in these chats, I can show the broader social media world that I’m committed to social media and working to be a go-to resource. It also shows recruiters I walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to everything social media related.

3. Keep your profiles up to date

Everyone has at least one embarrassing picture that you wouldn’t want your employer to see. Even if you think you went rogue for a few years back in the day and posted way too many awkward pictures, you shouldn’t delete your entire profile. CareerBuilder found that 57% of employers are less likely to call someone in for an interview if they can’t find a job candidate online. Use your best judgement and delete the old embarrassing pictures you wouldn’t want your future boss (or anyone) to see.

Not only should you update your pictures, you should update the information within your profiles, too. This is especially crucial on your LinkedIn account. Your LinkedIn is basically your “live” résumé, and you want to make sure your account’s information is consistent with your experience and skillset.

Just as it’s important that your content is accurate and up to date, it’s equally as valuable to pay attention to the smaller details such as your grammar, punctuation, and spacing. This is an easy opportunity to show potential employers a glimpse of your professionalism and strong attention to detail.

4. Interact with your potential employer

Earlier in my social media career, I was working for a nonprofit and wanted to secure a grant from a local organization, so I contacted the organization’s CEO directly on LinkedIn. Although it wasn’t necessarily a “potential employer” at the time, the executive LOVED that fact I contacted him in a unique and different way and was more receptive to what I was asking of him.

Don’t be afraid to slide into those DM’s! It’s common for employers to post their job openings on their social channels, especially if it’s a social media-focused job. For example, your potential employer may post an Instagram photo on their account advertising a job opening and include a call to action in the caption to “Click the link in their bio.” If the job is something you’re interested in, apply directly from the Instagram page, and follow-up by sending a personal message to introduce yourself. This can help differentiate you from the competition.

5. Stay positive and consistent

Just because you’re #blessed and landed your dream job doesn’t mean you can start going crazy on your social media accounts. Similar to how you portrayed yourself before your new job, you absolutely still want to avoid profanity, unnecessary arguments, and negative rants. Be respectful on social media, your brand will depend on it. As the late, great Stuart Scott said, “Stay as cool as the other side of the pillow.”

Last, but certainly not least, don’t burn bridges! Even if you have strong negative feelings about one of your past coworkers or employers, you should avoid posting anything negative about them online. The professional world is smaller than you think, and you never know who is connected to someone else. Social media can help you land a job, but it can also cost you one, too.


footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

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