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Social media allows you to stay connected with friends and family. But did you know that it can also play a crucial role during your job search?

According to a 2022 Harris Poll survey, 71% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring.

"What you post on social media can give employers a solid first impression of the kind of person you are," says Chris Chancey, founder of online recruiting agency Amplio Recruiting. "By perusing your social profile, employers want to check if you would be a good cultural fit," he says. "The material you post, your language and attitude, and how you interact with other users say a lot about your ability to fit into a specific work environment."

As your job search gets underway, here are some ways to clean up your social media accounts to help make a great impression with employers.

Conduct an image audit

A picture is worth a thousand words. That's why it's important to ensure yours are speaking the right ones to employers.

"It's vital that you take down any pictures from your feed you wouldn't want potential employers stumbling upon as they search your social profiles," says Kris Hughes, senior content marketing manager.

In a previous role, Hughes was responsible for vetting and hiring candidates, which involved reviewing social media profiles. He recommends removing photos that aren't reflective of the image you want to send to employers, such as ones that suggest you favor a party lifestyle. "Too many of these pictures could signal to a potential employer that you may be a tardiness risk or cause them to question whether you're bringing your best self to work each day," says Hughes.

Chancey says what employers look for on social media are non-offensive pictures and videos that cast you in a good light. He advises removing images that are provocative, violent, discriminatory, or otherwise questionable from your feed.

Cultivate your content and highlight your experiences

In addition to your photos, your posts and online interaction with others offer insight into your personal character, as well as your qualifications and suitability for the job. Employers searching your social media look for proof that you have the skills and experiences the role demands. Your content shows your level of communication skills and creativity, expertise within your field, and much more.

Employers also seek certain qualities and look for posts that reveal how well-rounded you are. For example, Hughes says that might include things like volunteer work or involvement with local civic organizations. You could also use your social profiles to play up travel experiences, hobbies, and any other interesting activities you are involved in.

Like photos, employers look for posts that make you shine. They are looking for candidates who are positive and responsible, and who have integrity. It’s best to remove and avoid making inappropriate posts or comments that are discriminatory or offensive in nature, use vulgar or violent language, and complain about work-related issues, and relationships or personal matters.

Adjust and monitor your privacy settings

Social media platforms often change their privacy settings. Make sure you monitor and adjust what prospective employers can see.

"It's not a faux pas for job candidates to maintain online privacy," Chancey says. "Sometimes, it's not feasible to delete all less-than-professional messages and pictures from your profiles so adjusting privacy settings makes sense." Some of the tips he suggests include:

  • Limiting who can view your posts by making them private or protecting them so they are only viewable to friends and followers
  • Selecting the option to review posts you've been tagged in before allowing them to appear on your timeline
  • Disabling the tagging feature altogether

You're not required to reveal anything that's set to private on your social accounts, but remember that an employer can still see anything that's public. And, many states have made it illegal for employers to ask for login details, account access, and more from job seekers as it relates to social media. Even if it's not illegal in your state for an employer to ask for this information, consider carefully whether you're comfortable giving them access to your social media accounts. And if you're not, then make that clear.

Make sure your name is consistent

It may seem like a small thing but make sure you're using the same name on the various social media platforms.

Chancey says being consistent with the name you use is helpful for establishing and building your personal brand. "It's very important to think about your personal image, even if it is on a less formal platform such as Facebook," he says. "Your profile, name, and everything you post can make or break you."

If you prefer to use a nickname or go by a shortened version of your first name on social sites, make sure you're using the name you'd like to be known as professionally on more career-focused sites that specifically tout your educational or professional achievements. Consider using this same name in your email signature and on your résumé as well, which can make you more memorable to hiring managers.

Review your employer's social media policy once you're hired

These social media tips can help you put your best foot forward during your job search. But, keep in mind that it's just as important to think about your social media habits once you land a position.

"It's not uncommon for employers to terminate someone for posting social media images or statuses that are deemed detrimental to the business," Chancey says. "You need to know what your employer's policy is, what's acceptable and unacceptable, and how best to use social media as a professional in your workplace."

If your employer has a written policy, it may be included with your initial hiring paperwork. Human resources can also clue you in on the rules for social media use. Get to know them inside and out to avoid any social media missteps, both on the job and during off-hours.

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