Picture job searching as a two-way mirror. On one side, there’s you: a hopeful job seeker Googling everything and anything you can find out about your dream employer. And on the other side is your potential employer who can now look in every nook and cranny online to learn all about you.
You may be thinking: “Will companies really take the time to look at my social media accounts?” The answer? Absolutely. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 84% of employers recruit via social media, and 43% of employers screen job candidates through social networks and search engines.
And what they find could give you a leg up, but it could also disqualify you from your dream job. The same study found 36% of companies have actually disqualified job candidates after doing an online search or viewing an applicant’s social media. Ouch.
“It’s the recruiting world we live in now,” Matt Lanier, a corporate recruiter at Eliassen Group, a Massachusetts staffing agency, told The Huffington Post. “If the candidates are willing to publicly post something on social media, a potential employer has every right to factor it in when considering you for a job.”
So the big question is: What could hiring managers ding you for after searching you online? What boots you out of the running? And better yet, what changes on your social media would make you a more attractive hire? We spoke with industry experts and hiring managers to reveal social media turnoffs and what you can do instead that’ll send you to the top of the resume pile.
If hiring managers can’t find you online, it’s not a good sign. It looks like you either have something to hide or nothing to show, both of which will send your resume to the bottom of the pile.
“I would definitely wonder about the background of a tech professional who had zero presence on social media, rather than the individual who has a well-managed LinkedIn and Twitter presence, but prefers that their personal social media such as Facebook remains private,” Dawn Edmiston, clinical associate professor of marketing at the College of William and Mary, told CIO.com.
What you should do instead. The key is drawing a line between your professional and personal personas. While it’s fine to keep your personal Twitter account private, it may be worth having a searchable Twitter name that depicts professional you and what you bring to the table. This way you get to choose what employers see. Make it look good.
The number of followers a candidate has is a vanity metric with no true meaning, says Etela Ivkovic, chief operating officer of DragonSearch, a New York marketing agency.
If you are followed by influencers or other leaders in your industry, that could be more beneficial than the actual number of followers, says Lia Haberman, social lead at Livestrong.com. “This is key because you could have a tiny following, but still make a major impact if you’re well-connected,” she says.
Not to mention, there is an assortment of tools out there that allow employers to weed out fake followers. It’s all too easy to get caught cheating, and that could certainly cost you the job.
What you should do instead. Employers are interested in how you use social media to interact, build relationships, and express your creativity—you don’t need thousands of Twitter followers to get this done. Make sure you’re using social media to connect with influencers, industry leaders, organizations, and publications in your field.
Employers also want to see you participating in relevant online groups, and they care about the type of content you share and comment on. This is your chance to show what type of contributions you’d bring to a company, so keep your commentary professional and make sure you’re adding value to discussion.
Wayne A. Lynch, managing partner of Vaco, a consulting and specialized recruiting firm in Dallas, suggests that a poorly presented Facebook page or a bad LinkedIn profile could have an impact.
Simply signing up isn’t going to cut it. “Being active shows they know how to engage with an audience,” says Michelle Brammer, director of marketing at eZanga, an online marketing firm headquartered in Middletown, Delaware. Social media is your chance to showcase your ability to network, engage others, and curate content, says Brammer. Don’t let it go to waste.
What you should do instead. You have to commit to your online brand, even if it’s sharing or reposting on social media a few times a week. When researching candidates, Haberman says she reviews social media channels to determine if the candidate posts smart, funny, insightful, interesting, or creative content, especially on Twitter and Instagram.
This is your chance to show companies you’re the full package, and that you’re more than your one-dimensional resume. “It’s all about the quality of your posts and the reach of your social circle,” says Haberman.
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.