by Tara Hamp
“I’m totally going to Tweet that!” If you’ve walked around campus, gone to the supermarket, or really gone anywhere lately it’s likely you’ve heard a similar statement. Social media has taken the world by storm and is definitely here to stay. Forced to embrace it, is there anything left private anymore? The line between over-sharing and being considered an active user is getting blurrier and blurrier. What would once be deemed as socially unacceptable to post is now being turned into memes, hashtags or ecards and being laughed off. Although social media sites are fun, what will a potential employer think about your recent post? #hangoverremedy #sickday #wildnight
If you have Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, chances are you’ve seen something along these lines before. While this may be fine for a college sophomore (who is 21, of course) to post, have you ever thought about what your potential employer may think about this? Probably not.
So, what exactly are employers scoping out on your social media pages? Let me start off by making it clear that I do not condone lying of any kind—little, big, white, black, etc., especially on a resume. Unfortunately, however, I don’t think it’s too far off base to assume that some people exaggerate past work experience in a desperate attempt to land a job that is so badly desired. Putting you worked somewhere for a year when it was really only slightly over 11 months; giving yourself the title of waiter when you were really only a food runner; calling yourself a barista when you didn’t even make it through training…oops! What’s the big deal? You basically were, right? Wrong. Don’t make that mistake.
Please don’t misread me. Presenting information on a resume that is anything but the 100% truth is always wrong and speaks volumes to your character– if you’re doing that, you deserve to be caught! However, the hard truth is that pre-Facebook days employers would have likely never found out. Now though, all your information can easily be verified with a few simple mouse clicks. According to CareerBuilder.com, a third of hiring managers said social media snooping has led potential employees to not get their desired job. Posts that reflect poor judgment, contradict information on resumes or demonstrate lack of personal discipline are major no-no’s and immediately capture employers’ attention.
Some people think a simple solution to avoid all this is just to delete their entire page or to put everything on private. Although altering your page requires more work than the other two quick fixes, it is ultimately a better solution.
Why? Being aware of what employers are looking for gives you the benefit of molding yourself into your best self. In other words, make your page reflect you in the best way possible—put your best foot forward. Typically a pretty safe rule to follow is: if you wouldn’t want your mother to see it, it’s probably better left un-posted.
Not sure what to check for? Here’s a short list to help steer you in the right direction:
- Does your page contradict any qualifications listed on your resume?
- Do you have posts implying you have poor judgment?
- Are you demonstrating a lack of personal disciple?
- Do your posts imply you will mesh well with the company culture?
- Do you use too much slang, vulgar language, or poor grammar?
- Are you representing yourself appropriately and accurately?
- Are you presenting yourself (at least somewhat) professionally?
- Do you appear well rounded and likable?
- Do any of your posts bash previous employers?
- Do you have any inappropriate or provocative pictures?
- Could any of your posts be taken in a discriminatory nature against gender, race or religion?
Of course, you can always put your page on private and decline any friend requests you are wary of. However, employers are increasingly becoming aware your page may be on private for a reason. They may wonder what exactly you are trying to hide. Don’t even put that thought into their heads. Ultimately, you may be surprised to find your page(s) need little or no adjusting! Always remember first impressions last a lifetime and often, actions speak louder than words. If the first time your potential employer sees your face is when they log onto social media, make sure it’s a picture you’re proud of. Don’t let an inappropriate #hashtag or highly provocative captions ruin your reputation. Keep in mind even with privacy settings enabled; there is always something that can be seen.
To put things in perspective for you, a survey found on CareerBuilder shows 37% of employers are currently checking social media pages before making a final decision about hiring prospective candidates. CareerBuilder also notes that 15% of companies prohibit the checking of social media in the screening process and that 11% plan to implement this screening process in the near future. Why do I bother telling you this? I want you to be aware that the number of companies currently using social media as a screening process can–and likely will– easily increase. Word on the street is that companies are actually asking employees to hand over their Facebook passwords and failing to do so could cost you your job! Do I have your attention now?! Don’t freak out. Just clean it up!
On the plus side, CareerBuilder did report that only about 12% of employers intentionally travel to potential employees social media pages in search for reasons to not hire a candidate. Mostly, employers are just curious and want to check you out. They are looking for reasons TO hire you and want to see if there is anything that stands out about you. Maybe your posts reflect the exact nature their company strives to portray and they think you could be a great asset to the team. One simple post could land you your dream job because it somehow unintentionally yet perfectly reflected the character of you and their company and they decide to hire you based on 140 characters—thank you Twitter!
Can you think of a time you heard someone you didn’t really know say something and instantly thought to yourself, “yup. I like you.” Social media can allow your potential employers to get this feeling through the magical World Wide Web. Instant connections can be made when employers are able to get a better feel for who you are and what you stand for, it can give you the perfect edge over your competition without you even knowing or having to get creative. Employers can stumble upon information that make your chances better, things you may have not even thought about as a hidden talent or would have ever considered putting on your resume. Social media can be your best friend when utilized correctly. Just be smart about it people!
I am not trying to imply you should alter your page in an effort to portray yourself as someone you’re not. Instead, heed my advice as a tool to help you spruce up your page and reflect your best self. Use this opportunity to take down those pictures you mindlessly posted, those hashtags you “ingeniously” thought up, those late night statuses and those heat-of-the-moment captions.
Here’s the challenge: Take a look at your resume and compare it to your social media pages. Make sure they accurately mimic each other; even a quick scan can be helpful.
So, what does your recent post say about you?