Career centre

How social media can make or break your job prospects

By Breda Graham

We live in a world where social media is nearly inescapable.

As well as the big players such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, social media sites that originally started as niche platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram have blown up and have become so addictive that our screen time reminders on our iPhones put us to shame.

Let’s be real with ourselves, social media gives us the ability to be who we want, when we want and how we want.

Many of us are guilty of oversharing without even realising it, while others simply use social media to reunite with friends and share ideas, photos, and videos - but these are often shared publicly with the ability to reach anyone, anywhere.

It is no surprise that recruiters and employers turn to social media to not only screen a potential employee prior to the interviewing process, but to find talent in the very first place.

Social media platforms, Twitter and LinkedIn in particular, create more opportunities to secure a job in an already proven to be tough economy, but the ability to do so comes with repercussions.

We tend to treat our social media accounts in a personal manner, with the understanding that we can post what we want for friends to see, but the reality is that once something is posted or shared, it exists in cyberspace forever.

We become overly comfortable with the idea that certain privacy settings will protect us but the truth is that if you post something that you would not want all 2.32 billion monthly active Facebook users to see, then do not post it at all.

This not-so-protective of your privacy social media sites can potentially put professional lives and reputation at risk, depending on how you decide to use the platforms.

Recruiters and employers are amongst these billions of users and while job seekers tailor their profile to promote themselves, network with like-minded people and make connections, without particular precautions in place, the likes of Facebook and Twitter can also affect the first step to securing a job - the interview.

Just like during the interview process where an interviewer will determine whether or not your personality will fit the company's culture, social media is used by potential employers to screen candidates.

If anything, screening social media gives them a more accurate portrait of what you are like as a person than an interview where answers can be rehearsed and premeditated prior to.

And although your LinkedIn profile may very slick and professional, your Facebook could be an entirely different story.

Here are the things that potential employers look out for when scouting through your social media, the red flags to avoid and how to make your social profile portray you as hireable during an interview.

Network

Half or more of all jobs come through word of mouth or through your connections.

But where else can you immediately reach hundreds of people in mere seconds? Social media, of course.

Job seekers can use this pool of connections in two ways: first, to land the interview.

Use your connections for possible leads on potential jobs because chances are the people in your circle will seek information from their own connections, making your chances of finding a job opening and securing an interview even more achievable.

Second, once you have secured the interview, look through your network of people to see if you are connected to the company in any way.

Remember to include friends and family in your circle of connections and not just former colleagues because it could surprise you who people know.

Use the same concept on your social media platforms and make sure to treat connections on social media sites as possible clients, colleagues, or managers.

Personality

Employers hire people they like and people they feel are the right fit for the company.

Consider how much time colleagues spend together in the office. An employer is not going to hire someone whose personality does not reflect the ethos or environment of the company.

So face into the interview with the knowledge that your personality is key to whether or not you will secure a job and working on some potential personal questions and answers is always a good idea.

But do not over-rehearse answers as they will come across as unnatural and forced. Be yourself and if asked about your hobbies, be honest and treat it like a having a chat with your friend, without telling them your whole life story or about that time you went backpacking across eastern Europe.

Likewise, during an interview, use your social media profiles to showcase your personal experiences. Post appropriate pictures of your travels, of your involvement in sport, the arts, or in your community to showcase what your interests outside the office are.

Read more on tips and tricks for using your personality to your advantage in our article entitled 'What if securing a job depended solely on your personality?'.

Who are you associated with on social media

You may have the perfect social media profile with everything in the right order, no messy nights out on the alcohol, no inappropriate photos or profanity.

But what have your 800 plus friends (are they really even your friends?) been posting and tagging you in?

If you are tagged in a potentially offensive post, it can be seen by others connected to your Facebook or Instagram profile, for example, and can ruin your credibility and effectively portray you in the wrong light.

Keep in mind that no matter how clean and professional your personal profile is, you are also instantly associated with your social media friends and connections so screening your friend's list and what you have previously been tagged in might not be a bad idea when job hunting or going for an interview.

The world wide web is forever

One thing to keep in mind, as mentioned previously, is that the world wide web does not forget and cyberspace is a very permanent thing.

Facebook has been around since 20014, which means that many 20 or 30-something-year-olds seeking jobs were relatively young when they first encountered social media and confused it as a safe space to share moments.

Such moments, when looking back, said 20 or 30-something-year-old would most likely cringe at or heavily regret.

The problem is that Facebook does not forget such moments, even after 15 years of existence.

Unlike in a real life situation where apologies are made for regretful decisions and friends may decide to forgive and forget.

Not the internet, unfortunately.

Be aware that recruiters and potential employers will not only look at your profile, but they will go back in time.

Which can be a daunting thought for some, given that a few scrolls on a mobile phone screen can unearth what you were doing in 2009.

Social media recruiting is becoming more and more important for employers as it is less time consuming, an effective way to find and screen candidates and cost-effective.

And for job seekers, once they understand the potential dangers of social media sites, then they can easily avoid the red flags and create a profile that will make them a likeable candidate.

An employer is more likely to interview a candidate who has an interesting profile which brings something a little different to the table to set them apart.

With these tips in mind, be prepared to clean up your social media presence and be familiar with your profile before the interview as you could be asked about particular elements of your social media profile.