The key to landing any job is to present yourself professionally, and these days that includes how you come across online as well. How can you ensure your social media presence helps you score a job?
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More employers have started using sites like Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn in the hiring process, and according to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 43 per cent of hiring managers now use social media to screen candidates.
Career advisor Matt Tarpey explains that most employers don't necessarily visit your online profiles looking for a reason not to hire you, but if they do happen to find one it will almost certainly take you out of the running.
"The question most employers go to social media to answer isn't 'Why should or shouldn't we hire this person,' it's 'Is this a person we'd like to see almost every day?" says Tarpey.
Knowing exactly what employers are after when they scrutinise your online persona can help you scrub up your image and hopefully get bumped to the top of the list.
Here are the top 5 things that hiring managers have said they look for when screening an applicant online.
1. Your professional image
Unsurprisingly, the first thing most employers look for is what sort of image your online profiles portray. Anything you'd feel uncomfortable talking about in a job interview should probably not be online at all, but it certainly shouldn't be visible to the public eye.
"It's important for job seekers to understand exactly what a visitor to their social media profile will see," says Tarpey.
"Keep in mind that prospective employers can see not only things you've posted, but also posts that you're tagged in and things others have posted to your profile."
Take some time to think about how your online profiles would look to a potential employer. Are your photos professional? Is the information accurate, free of typos, and relevant to your area of expertise? What sort of links are you sharing?
2. Whether you are a good fit for the company culture
"With so many qualified candidates, employers often use social media to determine whether a job seeker would be a cultural fit at the company," notes Tarpey.
But what exactly does this mean?
A company's culture is defined by its core values, its vision, and the practices of the people who work there, so an employer scanning your profiles will likely be looking for clues about your personal, social and work style and preferences.
If you're applying for a job with a specific company, do a bit of research on its culture. If you think you'd be a good fit, take the time to highlight the right things on your profiles, such as your creativity or social nature.
3. Your professional qualifications
Your skills and accomplishments might be laid out clearly in your CV, but many employers still say they use social networks to find out more about a candidate's professional qualifications. So if you aren't showcasing your work online, you're missing out on a valuable opportunity.
Sites like LinkedIn are excellent for this purpose as they allow you to share not only your qualifications, but also entire portfolios or links to projects you've worked on. Recommendations from people you've worked with in the past are also valuable, as they can give future employers an idea of what it's like to work with you.
Employers may also use social media to verify your credentials or experience, so make sure that your online profiles match the information in your current CV or resume.
4. Signs you are a well-rounded candidate
Social networks give employers a rare chance to see what you are like outside the workplace and get a glimpse of how you interact with people and share your views; what your interests and passions are; and the accomplishments you are proud of.
Don't be afraid to share your personality — embrace it. Employers will be happy to see the "real" you, as long as you do it in a professional way.
"Think about what makes you a fun person to be around, and aim to showcase that through your social media accounts," suggests Tarpey.
5. Reasons not to hire you
On occasion, employers also use social networks to see if there are any reasons they shouldn't hire you. The top reasons employers gave for pulling a candidate out of the job running after researching them online included:
- Provocative or inappropriate images
- Information about drinking or using drugs
- A candidate bad-mouthing a previous employer
- Poor communication skills
- Discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion
- A candidate who lied about qualifications
Clearly, it's very important to think before you put anything online, be it a comment, photo or any other type of content.
And it's not just the things you post either; people in your network can also cast you in a bad light by tagging you in photos and posts or sharing things you wouldn't have, so choose your online 'friends' wisely.
To get a good idea of what employers might find when they research you online; try doing a simple Google search on your name. Do this from a public computer or clear your browsing data first to make sure that you're getting the same results that others would.
Marianne Stenger is a writer and blogger with Open Colleges, one of Australia's leading online education providers. She has been writing for publications, online resources and blogs in the education industry for over four years, and is passionate about promoting online learning tools and the use of new technology in the classroom. You can find her on Google+ and Twitter, or view her latest articles here.