Job Hunting in the Information Age: How to Optimize Your Social Media Footprint
Emailing resumes is easy, but isn’t any more effective than snail mail. Probably less so, given the hundreds of responses that postings for good job openings can get. Hiring managers these days want to look beyond your resume, to get a better feel for who you are (provided your application wasn’t immediately trashed; see Pamela Skillings article on “8 Design Ideas for Making Your Resume Pop”. Once you’ve made it past the initial purge, you can bet that potential employers will be scouring the web for your social media footprint.
This isn’t necessarily bad. There are several ways you can use this to your advantage.
Your Online Presence
If you don’t have an account on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, it’s time to connect. If you are anti-social media, at least create a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a social site for professional networking, and you can craft your profile any way you like.
When the time for a job search comes, you should check your social accounts and remove or anything inappropriate. That includes all posts, images, and links from both yourself and followers that demonstrates bad behavior like drunkenness, violence, profanity – anything that could be considered offensive or shameful. Try to temper the rhetoric of your political posts and debate comments. Never criticize previous employers or throw yourself a pity party – these send up big red flags to potential employers.
Showcase Your Talent
Social media is a great place to post and discuss portfolio pieces. By all means, include your personal interests to show your character and style, but make an effort to emphasize material that might matter to potential employers in your field. If you’ve won awards, or if you support a good cause, don’t hide your candle under a digital bushel! Recruiters would be glad to see that you spend your free time on productive, creative, and worthwhile causes. Would you want a job applicant that devotes all their free time to video games, or one who helps the homeless?
Keep Up with Innovation
Another way of indicating your value is your willingness to learn and keep up with trends in your field. Be sure to “like” or link to resources discussing some recent developments in your field of expertise. And use them – your ability to discuss current and future trends in business will be very impressive in interviews. It shows dedication, enthusiasm, and productive engagement with your profession.
There may be harmful posts or comments about you that you weren’t even aware of. This could jeopardize your job chances if recruiters discover it. It pays to take some measures to bury negative search results.
1. Keep your business and personal lives separate; check your privacy settings to be sure embarrassing content is not shared publicly/ Ask your friends and family to do the same, at least while you’re job hunting.
2. Use your real name on respected business sites like blogs, major company sites, informational or training sites, etc., to place insightful comments or even submit professional guest posts. This associates your name with some respected resources that will show up in searches.
3. One criteria that Google and other search engines use to rank sites is the number of incoming links to it. When you’ve established a professional presence on respected sites, provide links to them from your own pages to point more searchers to the content you want them to see.
4. Search on your own name periodically. This helps to find both positive and negative keywords. For instance, if “Jerry Nelson + MIT” brings up a story about a grisly lab accident, but “Jerry Nelson + Boston” brings up a story where you rescued a puppy, start using “Jerry Nelson + Boston” in your own content to help bury negative search results.
Even if you aren’t a social media guru, it pays to maintain an account or two as a career resource. Most recruiters will feel surprised if they find nothing at all; it could indicate that you’re unsociable or have something to hide. Think of your social media presence as a “front page” that introduces you to the world. Be intentional about the messages you are sending. Professional social media accounts are a proven method for improving job hunting results.