It's true: Employers, both current and future, look you up online. And not just your LinkedIn profile--most of them will also click any public social network links that are floating around. But don't panic. With a little effort, you can polish your profiles so your personality shines through and makes you a more attractive candidate to recruiters. Here are five tips for leveraging your social networks to give your career a competitive edge.
1. Keep it professional
It should go without saying that if you have a penchant for posting sexy selfies, risqué party pics, and curse-filled tirades, you should lock down public access to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. Although the question of whether your boss can fire you because of something you posted on your own time is up for debate, you don't want that photo of you at the business end of a beer bong to be the first thing that pops up when a potential employer Googles your name.
But making sure your profile is "professional" is about more than scrubbing NSFW content. If your networks are family-friendly but also family-only, you may want to keep them private rather than public. "Using non-professional social media in a professional setting can be tricky," says Matt Brosseau, director of technology and recruiting at IT strategy and consulting company Instant Technology. "Twitter and Facebook are meant less for establishing yourself as a professional and more for facilitating conversation."
2. Engage with others
Having thousands of Twitter followers is one thing, having significant influence over them is another. Are you an interesting, engaging online persona, or are you just collecting followers? Employers can check this--sites like Twitter Audit and Klout reveal if your followers are real and whether you're an engager or just a broadcaster. It's better to have a small, involved following than it is to have an ego-boosting number on your page.
"Personally, I don't check candidates' Klout scores," says Tracey Russell, a recruiter at sales and marketing recruiting firm Naviga Business Services. "But I will pay attention if someone is active and engaging on Twitter." According to Russell, who frequently sources "passive" candidates (people who are not actively looking for jobs), engagement on social media shows you're passionate, you understand technology and social media, and you're able to work with and talk to other people.
3. Show off your interests
There are hundreds of other candidates with your same level of education, work experience, and job-related skills. Demonstrating that you're interested in a variety of things--not just being a punctual, detail-oriented team player--makes you stand out from the horde and helps employers make a deeper connection with you.
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