How to get your social media working for you in your job search

By Neil Patrick and Marcia LaReau

What does your online profile tell people about you?

I think by now, everyone knows that when you are job hunting, you need to make sure that your social media profiles contain nothing that might show you in an unfavourable light.

That’s the trouble with social media. Because it’s in the public domain, what you post there can and most likely will be examined by the recruiters and HR people you come into contact with.

Don’t let it ruin your chances of securing that job!

In case you have any doubts about why this is vital, the stark facts are that today, 92% of companies use social media for recruiting and 3 out of 4 recruiters check candidates’ social media profiles at some stage in the recruitment process.

So this isn’t optional anymore. It’s mandatory.

If you want some tips on cleaning things up, this post by David Hunt contains some useful (and amusing) tips on what to do.

But that’s just the first step. You also need to make sure not just that your social media doesn’t embarrass you, but that it works hard for you to make you stand head and shoulders above your competitors.

This means you must understand what recruiters are looking for when they search your social media profiles.

And it’s not what you might think.

Misunderstanding this is what tempts many people into either telling lies on their profiles (especially LinkedIn), or trying too hard to turn their profiles into advertising copy which is full of overblown adjectives about how great they are.

Both of these tactics are a bad idea. Do not fall into the trap!

A commonly overused adjective is the word ‘passionate’. You’ll see it all the time on Linkedin profiles which are trying too hard.

My good friend Marcia LaReau at Forward Motion US explains how this backfires:

“I have a passion for project management.”

Hiring professional thinks:

“Really? Is that the message I’ll find when I check you out online? Is that what you talk about to your FaceBook friends? Is that the kind of books you are reading? Do you go to the PMI chapter meetings? (PMI=Project Management Institute) No? Well … as a hiring professional, I thought you said it was your passion. Hmm … I’m not seeing it so that raises questions for me. I’d better take a closer look.”

So what ARE they looking for?

Simple: hiring professionals are looking for a consistent message. When inconsistent messages are found, it brings up questions that beg for answers.

For fun: Check out some of the FaceBook timeline covers and see if that content matches what the owner indicates they want to do next in their career … be prepared for a shock.

So the good news is that you don’t need to come up with some fancy sales copy, or try and inflate your achievements and status.

Back to Marcia, who provides this great step by step process anyone can follow:

First, answer these questions: 

  • What kind of job do you want? Teacher, Marketing, Theatre Technician, Retail Operations, Medical Office Manager, Finance, Engineering, Business Analyst, Writer? 
  • In what kind of a setting? Large corporation, non-profit, small business, manufacturing? 
  • Do you have specifics about how you work best? Work-at-home, small team, large division, lots of direction, minimal direction? 
  • What is most important to the companies that you want to hire you? Make a list. Don’t be tempted to think you can skip this step. 


Check your cover letter and résumé.Do they both send a message that you are right for the jobs for which you are applying?

  • Find three LinkedIn profiles of people in your industry that are doing what you want to do. The closer the match, the better. Take time with this step. Find people who have been careful with their profile. They should be profiles that make you think, “Wow. I’d like to look like that! I’d hire that person in a second.” Use what you learn to create your profile. 
  • Be completely honest in your content. And remember that hiring professionals look first from 5,000 feet and then focus on what’s most important to them with regard to skills, experience, and cultural fit. 


Positively expand your online image: 

  • What books are you reading about your industry/expertise, career? Not reading – why not? Post on LinkedIn (look at what others in your interest groups are reading.) 
  • What kind of postings are you making on LinkedIn? Stop sharing pictures of animals, brain teasers and other valueless content. Start sharing the insightful content you read about your professional area of interest. 
  • What industry-related meetings do you attend? How about classes you are taking. Share your activities on FaceBook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter. Can’t find a meeting – create one. Get 4 or 5 job-seekers who have your “passion” and meet weekly to keep current in your industry. Check your local Meet-up Groups
  • Check your LinkedIn Groups – are they the groups that relate to your career goals? Are you active in your groups? If not …that’s not good. It sends a mixed message: “I like this stuff, but I’m not really doing much with it.” So much for your “passion”… 
  • Check out your timeline image – what is it saying? It’s a huge first-impression-smack-me-in-the-face message. What’s yours look like? Here’s mine…while you’re there, if you found this information helpful, consider clicking on “Like”. 
  • Do an Internet search on your name and derivatives of your name. If you find unwanted publicity, check out the article on Digital Dirt. 
  • Check your cover letter and resume again to confirm that your online image is consistent with what you send to hiring professionals. 

This is the right way to develop your online image. It doesn’t involve lying, bragging or cheating. Leave that to your competitors, who will get found out.

In the words of a well-known vitamin ad…it’s ’You, but on a good day’.

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