We all know the feeling. You meet someone new, or a friend mentions a new boyfriend, perhaps a news story runs with the name of a suspect in bold ticker-taping its way across the bottom of the screen. An urge seizes you, an itch to type that name into a search engine, to browse through profiles on Facebook until you find the one that fits.
Does that hardened criminal really enjoy My Little Pony? Did your friend’s new squeeze honestly tweet their support for that politician? Does your potential new friend truly only post pictures of dogs that look like bread?
It’s become a modern-day reflex to check out people’s online presence and, let’s face it, judge them for it.
So, it’s hardly surprising that employers are doing exactly that when it comes to checking out potential new employees. It’s as common, and perhaps more useful, as asking for a reference. The checks can be as simple as typing your name into Google and seeing what pops up, but they can also trawl through your social media profiles at length.
Most people tweet pretty openly, and the last thing you want is to apply for a job at a publishing firm only for them to come across 140 characters announcing the fact that the last book you read was The Very Hungry Caterpillar back in 1994. Equally, you don’t want your Facebook profile picture to be one from your student days in which you’re wearing a child’s Disney Princess costume and being sick into a bucket.
Obviously employers don’t expect you to be a teetotal saint with no hint of fun or adventure in your life, but advertising it so blatantly does demonstrate that you don’t really have an understanding of boundaries. Save those pictures for a private album and check your security settings.
However, you can definitely use social media to your advantage. If employers are looking into your social media, why not give them a little something? As we’ve already said, Twitter is a very open platform and therefore a way to show off how engaged you are with the employment industry you’re hoping to enter.
Following the big-hitters and retweeting their posts that you think are interesting or insightful and sharing relevant news articles can show that you’re connecting with your chosen career in a meaningful way. Employers will be impressed if you’re showing commitment to relevant issues outside of your working hours.
Don’t get too political, or share anything you think could be viewed as controversial. If it’s going to be shared publically, you’ll have to use some diplomacy, judgement and tact.
Lots of employers look to LinkedIn to show them a candidate’s past employment and connections. In setting up a profile and maintaining an up-to-date list of hobbies and achievements, they’ll have controlled and curated access to your life in a way that boosts your employment chances.
Save the controversy for pages you know you can keep private. Lock down your security settings on Facebook or change your name to something different on there, and keep your Twitter and LinkedIn carefully managed and public. That way you can ensure a social media presence that employers will appreciate, and keep your drunken Disney Princess-clad moments just between friends. For more job hunting advice, check out some CV writing experts to nail your résumé as well.