Social Media Dos and Don’ts Every College Grad Should Know

Don’t let your social media habits derail your job search.

In last week’s article I offered tips to improve your resume. This week the focus is on cleaning up your online presence and building the right professional brand. When I coach seasoned professionals, I often have to encourage them to explore the world of social media and build a professional online presence. However, if you’re a recent college graduate, it’s pretty safe to assume you’ve had a social media presence since you entered high school, if not earlier.

This works in your favor because you’re already familiar with social media and should feel comfortable incorporating it into your job-search strategy. However, this comfort also comes at a price. Chances are you’ve built up a long, online history that’s publicly visible and not necessarily appropriate for the professional world.

A Jobvite social recruiting survey found that 93 percent of HR professionals and recruiters admitted to reviewing candidates’ social network profiles. 70 percent turned down a candidate based on something they found out about them online. If you’re not carefully controlling your online brand, you could be unknowingly hurting your chances of landing that dream job. Here are five tips to manage your online image and build a professional brand that employers will notice for all the right reasons.

Keep your story consistent

Google your name regularly to monitor your online image. Remember, your online brand should tell the same story as your resume, so make sure your name, education, and work history are consistent. Increase the security settings on any site that’s not related to your job search and change the account name (I recommend using your first and middle name) so no employer will find them.

A picture says 1000 words

Take down any photos that show you doing something illegal, or merely paint you in a bad light. This includes smoking cigarettes (or anything else), drinking, skinny-dipping – you get the point. If you wouldn’t want your mother seeing it, don’t put it up there. Also check the settings on sites such as Facebook to make sure you have control over photo tags.

Stop the hate

Don’t post comments or status updates bashing your colleagues, professors or interviewer – those things have a way of getting found. No one wants to hire a negative Nancy (or Ned). Not to mention, your prospective employer doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of your next rant.

What the @#$!?

Refrain from dropping f-bombs or other 4-letter words in status updates and comments. When you’re trying to find a job or get ahead in your career, it’s important to have a professional online brand. Need more convincing? A study found that 61 percent of HR professionals reacted negatively to job seekers who used profanity in their posts and tweets.

Keep the profile pic G-rated & professional

Use a professional-looking photo for any social media account associated with your professional brand and job search. Just you – not your dog and you, or a group shot of you and your best friends. This should be a friendly, professional looking head shot (hint: not the right spot for your bikini pic). If you need a new pic, have a friend help you – the web cam or DIY Instagram picture with your arm in the shot looks unprofessional.

Be mindful of what you post on the Internet – once it’s published, it’s there forever – whether or not you delete it. Think twice before hitting the send button on every status update, tweet and email.