With almost half of employers checking candidates’ social media pages and one in three employers admitting to rejecting a candidate based on something they saw online, it’s more important than ever to get your virtual presence in check.
But, let’s face it: If you haven’t been in the job market for a while, you may have kept your social profiles pretty personal—or ignored them altogether.
So, what happens when you do find yourself job-hunting? If you’re not already super active on social media or haven’t used it professionally before, it can feel awkward to beef it up in preparation for a job search.
We’re here to help. Read on for all you need to know to take your social presence from zero to recruiter-ready.
1. Focus on the Essentials
Before you jump in and try to build an amazing presence on every platform out there, start by getting your baseline in order. At the very least, every professional should have a LinkedIn page—so, if you don’t have one, get one and put some time and effort into building a solid profile. Even if you don’t go the extra mile of posting status updates and joining groups on LinkedIn, you need the page to serve as your digital presence. (Here’s a great guide to doing it right.)
Want to step it up a little bit more? Invest in a personal website. This approach can be great because not only do you have somewhere to send professional contacts, clients, and employers, but it’s easier to maintain than social media as you don’t have to constantly update it.
Also, if you do have existing social profiles, make sure that there’s nothing incriminating on them. I know, this seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people leave all sorts of ridiculously inappropriate content on their social media pages. I once saw a social media account where someone had a very public (and expletive-laden) fight with a friend on Twitter. Would you really want a hiring manager to see that? Also consider removing links to content that could be considered controversial or offensive in any way.
2. Decide What Else You Need
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to figure out what else you really need.
First, know that being active on social media can be a great way to give everyone (prospective employers, clients, and professional contacts) a greater sense of who you are as both a worker and a person. While many people point to the internet as being a place where people over-share, the web can also be a place filled with amazing opportunities. In many fields (especially those that have large digital sectors), using social media professionally is even a must, and many employers go out of their way to check if you have social media and factor that into their decisions.
That said, you don’t have to go overboard. In fact, it’s better to pick one or two platforms that make sense for your field and focus on doing those really well. For example, it’s standard in the media and journalism industries to be on Twitter. Or, if you’re going into a more creative or visual field, many employers will look to see if you’re active on Instagram. I’ve even written about a time when Instagram helped one professional land the job of her dreams.
But in some cases—say you’re going after a research position that requires no social media presence—it’s totally fine not to be on any other platforms besides LinkedIn. In that case, it might actually be best for you to deactivate your dated Twitter account and delete your empty Instagram (or make it private if you use it personally). There’s less to stress about in terms of you keeping up a social media account as well as worrying about your future employers finding old accounts.
Bottom line: Know your industry, and proceed from there.
3. Make it Clear That You’re Back
If you have old platforms that you’ve left untouched for a while, don’t be afraid to let your followers know that you’re back. It can be kind of awkward for you to start posting all of a sudden after a long absence, so making a joke about being back or just acknowledging your newfound presence is typically a good idea. You can even specify how often you’ll be posting on that account and what you’ll be focusing on (e.g., career content, industry news, or whatever makes sense for your profession).
As a bonus, putting this promise out into the world may give you the motivation you need to actually follow through on it. I speak from personal experience when I say this helped—the second I acknowledged that I was going to be more active on Twitter, the more interaction I had with others on the site. Because of that interaction, I felt compelled to keep up with my Twitter presence.
Trying to get your follower presence up, too? There are a couple of ways to do this. First, let people in your network know that you’re back on social media (via email or the social platforms you do use). Second, make sure you utilize awesome features of social media like hashtags and mentions so that people interested in similar content can see it. Third, join some communities on social media—whether it’s an awesome Twitter chat or a LinkedIn group, every little bit helps!
4. See What Others Are Doing
One of the easiest ways to see what you want to put on your social media accounts is to check out what other people in your industry are doing.
For example, in the world of journalism, many writers and bloggers post industry news, great articles they’ve read, and their own commentary on important news topics. When I was revamping my Twitter account after months of it being dormant, I immediately looked at other journalists I admired to see what they were posting on Twitter, and it helped me find inspiration.
Even better: The great thing about posting content on social media is that you really don’t have to do any more reading than you normally would. For instance, if you get a great industry newsletter every week, feel free to post a couple of awesome reads from that on your professional Twitter or LinkedIn. Or, if a friend sends you a thought-provoking article, consider it share-worthy and put it on your social media!
As you’re doing this, don’t hesitate to re-tweet some of your favorites or tag the sources. Doing so helps you not only make great connections, but also get more content (without you having to think of it yourself).
5. Pace Yourself
Once you make the decision to beef up your social media profiles, it’s easy to want to post 400 tweets or 30 Instagram pictures in an hour to seem more active. However, social media is much more about quality over an extended period of time than it is about quantity.
How do you do this? Set goals for yourself. For example, make it a goal to tweet two times per day or post to Instagram or Pinterest three or four times per week. After three to five weeks, your social media presence will seem much more stable and natural (so hiring managers won’t think you literally picked it up right after you submitted your application).
Even better: Nowadays, there are all sorts of apps that let you schedule social media posts in advance, so if you want to plan a week’s worth of posts on a Sunday afternoon and not think about them during them work week, it’s totally possible. Some of them will even schedule them at the optimal times for you! One such service to try is Buffer, which is free and incredibly easy to use.
Social media doesn’t have to be a hindrance on the job search process; in fact, it can undoubtedly help you. Just make sure you’re prepared to post regularly, get involved, and be deliberate about what goes up online.
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