I recently published a post titled "Social Media: A Serious Threat to Your Child's Professional Future". I shared several ways that social media could negatively impact your child's ability to, among other things, get a job. The basic argument was that childhood indiscretions documented as tweets, Facebook status updates, YouTube videos and whatever other future social media tools the world produces would live forever, even if you thought they were deleted, hidden, buried or otherwise "destroyed". Future employers would review your child's social media resume well before he or she showed up for their traditional interview.
It may all sound a little "doomsday" and "big-brotherish" but, unfortunately, it is a reality.
In a nationwide survey of 2,000 hiring managers conducted by Harris Interactive, 37% said they used social media to help make hiring decisions with 65% saying Facebook was the social media site they checked most often. Does anyone think those percentages are likely to go anywhere but up? Nearly 2 out of 3 said they were checking to see if the candidate presented him or herself professionally, with over half saying they were checking to see if they thought the candidate would be a "good fit" with the company's culture.
Are you ready for the shocking part? More than 1/3rd of them said that they had found something on a social media site which caused them to NOT hire a candidate.
Here is an interesting thought. If you know a potential future employer is going to be looking at your social media profile before or after interviewing you, can you positively impact their first virtual impression by prepping your social media sites in advance? It certainly makes sense to do so.
Here are a few tips to improve your social media resume:
• Check your photos and videos: In this case, good or bad, a picture is worth far more than 1,000 words and what "happens in Vegas, does not stay in "Vegas". Unless you are applying for a job at a party planning company, it is probably not a good idea to post pictures of you "partying hard", scantily clothed or participating in a mean game of beer pong. If you have already posted photos you would rather not have your future employer see, you can hide, edit or delete them on Facebook or delete them on Twitter. You can also delete inappropriate videos or make them "private" on YouTube. Also, remember that if you have your privacy settings set at a default of "public" on Facebook, anybody can click on the "photos" link under your Facebook profile timeline cover and see all of the public photos you have ever posted or been tagged in.
• Fact check yourself: Employers hate inconsistencies in resumes. Even though the "gaps" or "contradictions" may be perfectly explainable, many times you will not get the chance to do so. They will simple conclude that you have something to hide, are dishonest or lack attention to detail. I mean, if you cannot get something as important as your resume right, how can they count on you to do your job right if they hire you? This problem is magnified and the likelihood of it happening is much greater if you are active on 4-5 social media sites each of which has an "about" or "profile" section. If you are on LinkedIn (and you absolutely SHOULD be), start by getting your profile updated, accurate and dialed in and then go site by site after that making sure the information is consistent.
• Write Well: OMG ain't nobody gonna' LOL and hireu2 if you write like this. I know, writing in shorthand and using social media "language" is common. You have to admit though, although writing like this may be cool and show how clever you are, it does not create a favorable impression or demonstrate your command of the English language. Write in complete sentences, use the proper punctuation and follow the basic rules of English.
Social media is a powerful tool and is likely to become more powerful and even more ubiquitous in the future. Employers are also increasingly using it to help them make hiring decisions. If you know this and prepare accordingly you are more likely to tilt the playing field in your direction and score that dream job.