Your social media presence is a crucial part of your post-college job hunt. In fact, 60% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, according to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey, and 49% of hiring managers say they’ve found information that caused them to not hire a candidate.
If you’re a new graduate, it’s time to give your social media presence a professional makeover, says Lesley Mitler, cofounder of Early Stage Careers, a career guidance firm that works with recent college graduates.
“[In college] you tend to use social media for fun, but you need to use it to brand yourself,” she says.
Companies want to see someone who lives the words on their resume in everyday life, says Ryan Smolko, associate director of student transition and engagement at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. “They’re looking for students to have a genuine interest in their desired profession, and to see them engaging with other professionals and organizations related to that industry,” he says.
College is the time to make these changes, so that you can have a developed, organic, and professional profile when your prospective employers come looking, says Mitler.
Start by creating separate personal and business profiles, with the highest privacy settings applied to your personal account, says Mitler. “Having one account makes it easy to update, but some of the posts might not meet your needs in terms of what you want to communicate to a professional population,” she says.
Be sure to check your privacy settings once a month to make sure everything is appropriate, adds Smolko. “New updates often bring new features to social media platforms that may affect what the public can see,” he says.
Students tend to underutilize social media to market themselves in an internship or job search, says Smolko. “Employers are utilizing platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram more to advertise their organizations and promote the employee experience,” he says. “Students are only as visible as they make themselves, which includes social media.”
Students should follow industry leaders on Twitter, says Mitler. “Retweet or comment on what they tweet,” she says. “Retweet news from companies you’re interested in, or tweet articles you find valuable. It’s a matter of showing passion and engaging with thought leaders and peers.”
Instagram is a great way to build a portfolio if you’re studying a creative field, such as graphic design or photography. “Be sure it represents your long-term interest, though,” says Mitler. “If your first 400 posts are you at a baseball game and you have one post from fashion week, it doesn’t flow. You want to demonstrate your passion.”
LinkedIn is already a professional platform, and students should use it to network for a job, says Mitler. “One of the terrific things you can do is search alumni from your school,” she says. “Younger alumni are often receptive to conversation, making introductions and advocating your candidacy.”
Another way students should use LinkedIn is to research the backgrounds of people who hold positions you wish to get, says Mitler. “Look at the last three people hired and find common threads,” she says. “Do they all come from Ivy League schools? What jobs did they hold? This gives you a lens into what the company looks for.”
So what about those old inappropriate photos and posts from your personal accounts? Individuals should frequently Google themselves and see what comes up, says Mitler. “Make sure there is nothing unflattering,” she says. “Be as self-aware as early as possible, removing photos and tags from anything you can.”
If there are posts that you can’t remove, create more recent positive posts. “Bad posts can become buried, so try to balance any negativity that may be there,” says Mitler. “People don’t think about until after social media has gotten ahead of them.”
And once you’ve established new professional accounts, keep them professional. Mitler says she sees people taking liberties on Twitter that they don’t do elsewhere. “There’s a frequent use of profanity, especially if they’re treated poorly by a business,” she says. “Don’t commingle this with talking about your career and professional life. Have separate accounts or maybe get rid of your personal Twitter account.”
Social media should be viewed as the tool that will separate you from the pack, says Smolko. “Students should use it to showcase their skills, interests, and experience,” he says. “Maintaining that professional focus will easily allow them to avoid problems.”