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How to protect your online image while job hunting with social media

3 min read


Fifty-six percent of Americans now have a profile on at least one social media networking site, according to a report by Edison Research. The same report found that a majority of social media users now check their accounts multiple times a day. While Facebook remains the most popular social media site, the number of daily tweets is on the rise — from 47% in 2010 to a whopping 76% in 2012 — for users with Twitter accounts.

What do these statistics mean for job seekers and new recruits? Social media profiles provide hiring companies with another avenue for screening potential new employees, and for some job candidates it can either make or break their application, including those in the government market. The government market is performing well in this economy, as this link notes.

As a job seeker, you should be aware that social media activity can significantly affect your hiring potential. According to Eurocom Worldwide’s 2012 Annual Technology Market Survey, nearly 20% of technology industry executives reported that a job candidate’s social media activity negatively affected their application, while almost 40% of those polled reported that they review social media profiles as part of the hiring process.

The scoop on professional social media

Before you delete your Facebook account, consider this idea: A social media profile can make or break a job application. Yet many job applicants consider social media profiling a violation of their privacy, and a growing number of companies agree. So does the state of Maryland, which passed a law making it illegal for companies to request a job applicant’s social media password as part of the application process earlier this year — and California may follow suit.

What can you do to protect yourself in the meantime? Try following these tips to enhance your networking and protect yourself at the same time.

  • Keep your personal and professional profiles separate. You can choose to create separate accounts for social and professional contacts on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. If a potential employer requests access, direct them to your professional profile instead.
  • Use the right social media platforms for your needs. Some social media profiles are more appropriate for professional contacts than others. LinkedIn is intended for professional contacts, while Facebook is better suited to social networking for individuals.
  • Just say “no.” You’re not required to “friend” potential employers or give them your account password, which you should never provide to anyone for any reason. If a company you’ve applied to persists, tell them that certain accounts are private and direct them to a professional profile on LinkedIn.
  • Think twice before posting statuses. Even if you choose to limit account access and manage privacy settings, think twice about posting statuses and comments you wouldn’t want to make public.