How Social Media Can Get You Hired, or Passed Over

Attention recent college graduates: You’re probably aware that photographicmanage-digital-life evidence of your innovative costume for that Halloween party freshman year could prevent you from landing your dream job – or any job – if it’s attached to your name online. But you should also be aware that how you present yourself on social media can help you land that dream job, too.

It’s no secret that the job market is tough, with roughly 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 unemployed, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A trail of incriminating photos, questionable language and exhibitions of a bad attitude on social media can only make a job hunt worse. It’s time to address that history and focus on presenting yourself as a smart, savvy adult whom any company would be lucky to bring on board.

First, address the potential problems.

From those photos of you gleefully waving a red cup on Instagram to your hilarious status updates about the history teacher with halitosis, it’s all there for the world to see, including the HR personnel you’re trying to impress. According to, three in four hiring managers admitted to checking candidates’ social profiles, even if they weren’t provided on a resume. One in three hiring managers rejected candidates because of something they found on social media.

  1. Google yourself. A quick online search of your name can either get recruiters interested … or result in them deleting your resume. Forbes recommends scanning the first few pages of search results, then removing or editing inappropriate content hiring managers are most likely to find.
  1. When in doubt, cut it out. Inspect your social media accounts for any of the following:
  • Profanity
  • References to partying
  • Anything that suggests unprincipled behavior, such as complaints about a job or boss, or efforts to pull something over on a professor or peer
  1. Scrutinize your photos, particularly the profile picture. Remove anything that could be seen as racy, or exhibiting behavior that could prevent you from being taken seriously. recommends a professional photo that shows off a friendly personality.
  2. Establish privacy settings, but not too strictly. While it’s important to make use of privacy settings, it’s a bad idea to become invisible. Grove City College’s Career Services Office counsels recent graduates that taking social media privacy settings too far or shutting accounts down entirely can imply that you’ve got something to hide. Recruiters want to get a sense of your personality, how you behave outside of work and how you might behave in the workplace.

Once you’ve tackled the basics, get proactive.

Social media can actually help you land that dream job, making you stand out from your peers in the recruiting process. Up your professional social media game with these tips.

  1. Establish a professional presence online. While it’s important for all of your accounts, take particular care with your LinkedIn profile because 93 percent of recruiters use the platform to find candidates, according to CNET. Timely updates to personal information and a professional profile picture, rather than a placeholder “silhouette,” can also make you stand out, according to Forbes.
  1. Get connected with industry influencers and companies that interest you. The companies that you want to work for likely have a social media presence, so get connected with them, Forbes says. Search out leaders in the industry, follow them, and engage with them on topics relevant to jobs you want. Watch their feeds for links to job postings, too.

TIME notes that four out of five recruiters liked to see memberships and affiliations with professional organizations on a candidate’s profile. Recruiters also want to see what you’re doing in the community, with 66 percent reacting positively to profiles that mention volunteerism.

  1. Demonstrate creativity. You don’t have to stick with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. According to Mashable, sites like Tumblr and Pinterest can aid your job search, particularly if you’re entering a field requiring creative chops. A Tumblr page aligned with your interests and packed with your content can serve as an online portfolio. And, Pinterest is emerging as a method for displaying a resume, allowing job seekers to add photos and links.

Landed a job? Congratulations! Now you’ve got to keep your professional social media presence intact. CBS MoneyWatch recommends avoiding subjects like race, religion, class or gender in posts. Constant updates and chronicling a wild party life are also discouraged.

Soon enough, these tactics will become second nature, and your biggest worry may be finding time to keep up with the school friends who created your social media headaches in the first place.