Job search advice: What to audit on your social media, and how to use recruiters’ tactics on themselves

Posted April 04, 2018 by


The recent movie everyone’s watching about Facebook data and Cambridge Analytica should make job seekers hyper aware of the information they post online. Political analysts might build psychological profiles, but what do you think recruiters do to find the right candidates?

Some entry-level job seekers are surprised when they discover that recruiters search online for information about them. Steven Rothberg, President and Founder of College Recruiter says he finds this interesting. Some candidates get uncomfortable “when they discover that potential employers have looked at social media, talked with people not listed as references, and more.” But think of it this way, says Rothberg: you likely “have no qualms about looking at social media, talking with people who aren’t recruiters or hiring managers about that potential employer.”

Employers search for you online to get a sense of your professional conduct, and whether you’d be a good cultural fit in their workplace.

If I were about to begin an entry-level job search, I would do two things. First, I’d do a full audit of my social media and remove information that I don’t want recruiters to see. Second, I’d find out everything I can about the recruiter and the potential employer, just as they are finding out about me.

Do a self-audit of your social media and start posting more relevant information

It is up to you what you are comfortable showing to recruiters online. You might believe that by removing information, you are not showing your authentic self, and you don’t want to work for any organization who doesn’t accept you for who you are. If that is how you feel, that’s fine and you can scroll down to the next section. However, think for a moment about the difference between intent and impact.

Here’s what I mean. You might post something with the intent of saying one thing, but can it be misconstrued and interpreted as saying another thing? Plenty of people lose their jobs for posting things that they never intended to be offensive. But impact is different than intent.

First and foremost, scan your language for anything that could be interpreted as offensive or even hateful. For example, racist jokes are not okay. And if that’s something you’ve posted before, get ready to quit, because you’ll be wearing your professional hat from now on.

Find organizations whose cultures fit yoursKnow the organization’s values. If you have certain organizations in mind where you’re interested in working, look up their career site to see their organizational values. You are likely to see integrity in there, maybe diversity and inclusion, and many other unique values. As you scan your social media posts, think of how your language upholds those values. Are there any posts that conflict with those values? Consider removing them. Even better: if you identify those organizational values, start posting things that demonstrate that. This won’t be unauthentic if you truly believe in those values.

Politics or no politics? It is a tough choice to leave or remove your posts that give away your political leanings. For some, removing all hints of politics would leave your social media bare. If this is you, you might just focus on scanning for posts that spread unfounded claims. If a recruiter sees that you aren’t thoughtful about sharing credible news, they may question your ability to discern fact from fiction.

Here’s the thing: political thinking and rhetoric has become so personal these days that for many, it is impossible to separate it from daily life, or at least from your core values. Even CEOs are finding it more difficult to remain apolitical. If a recruiter judges you negatively as a candidate because of your political beliefs, you might say, “I wouldn’t fit in there anyway, so not my loss.” Personally, I worry more about how to bring the two sides together. If you start posting about bridge building, recruiters might see you as an important team member to bring on board!

If you’ve begun the job search but your profile pictures aren’t professional, it’s time to update them. You don’t need to spend money on a professional head shot, but you do need a clear picture of your face, without other people or your cat. If you’re afraid of being judged for the color of your skin or other physical attributes, find a quote that represents your values and use that as your profile photo.

Also read our Guide for Entry Level Job Seekers to Combat Bias in the Workplace

If you don’t want to, or can’t, remove all the posts that reveal political leanings, X-rated behavior, or cat photos, at least start posting more relevant information. Follow people who are thought leaders in the industry and share their posts. Start reflecting on industry trends and post your own ideas.

Search for recruiters online during your job searchUse the same tactics in your job search to find information about recruiters 

There is nothing wrong with investigating recruiters online in the same way they search for information about you. You have more tools today to help conduct an informed job search than anyone ever has. Use them!

If a recruiter has been in touch with you, search for them on Twitter. Often, you’ll see that they post both professional and personal information. If that’s the case, you should feel especially comfortable scanning their posts because they probably expect it.

Find the recruiter on LinkedIn. Do you have any of the same LinkedIn connections? Ask them for an introduction. Even if you don’t have any connections in common, ask the recruiter to connect with you. Check out how they describe themselves, their previous experience, their education, any recommendations or endorsements from others.

Also read “Networking: A Definitive Guide for Students and Grads to Succeed in the Job Search”

This is all important because it should help you find something you have in common with the recruiter. When you find a point of commonality, use it to your advantage. Do you see on LinkedIn that they went to the same (or rival) college? Did they use to have a job title that you’re interested in? Do you see on Twitter that they have a dog too? Did they celebrate a holiday that you celebrate too? These are things you can call out. When you find something in common, it becomes easier for them to remember you, and more importantly, you get nearer to their “in-circle.” That is to say, they are more likely to like you and recruit you.

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