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Your Social Media: A Career Maker or Breaker?

Employers are increasingly scrutinizing the online lives of their staff and prospective hires, making your social media presence more important than ever. This trend involves sophisticated screening companies that meticulously analyse social media posts to flag potential issues that could embarrass the company. Beyond this, many employers also use social media to get an idea of potential recruits’ personality, cultural fit, and creativity.

The suspension of cricketer Ollie Robinson from the England team for past racist and sexist tweets ignited a national debate about social media that went right up to the prime minister. To help you ensure your social media is an asset rather than a liability for your career, we explored insights from screening companies, employers, and experts.


 What Social Media Screeners Look For

One company that specialises in sorting through job applicants’ social media – on average, seven accounts per person – is Eurocom CI. It says social media offers “a vast amount of insight into their character, interests and endeavours” to employers. Checks focus mainly on flagging up negative factors, sorted into extreme views, discriminatory behaviour, illegal activities, inappropriate conduct, potential addiction or substance abuse, sexually explicit conduct and violent conduct. But a couple of factors can weigh in a candidate’s favour, such as charity work or volunteering.


Avoid the Common Social Media Pitfalls

Employers have their own idea of social media posts that put them off a potential recruit. A survey by CareerBuilder found more than half had not hired someone because of online behaviour. Among the most common reasons were “provocative or inappropriate” posts, drinking or drugs, discriminatory posts or details of criminal behaviour. But they also found issues directly tied to job performance: lying about qualifications, poor communication skills, bad-mouthing of former employers and breaches of confidence.


Don’t Delete Everything

It may seem like social media isn’t worth the risk. But deleting your online presence to play it safe can be a red flag in itself, particularly if you’re trying to break into fields like technology and media. Dawn Edmiston, professor of marketing at the College of William and Mary, told “I would definitely wonder about the background of a tech professional who had zero presence on social media.” Instead, she suggests keeping a balance of public and private in social media: with public-facing profiles on platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and keeping your Facebook or Instagram for friends only.


Showcasing Your Best Self Online

So how can you make your social media attractive to employers? A survey of hiring managers by the recruitment company Jobvite found that cultural fit was the most common thing they were searching for, with 51% mentioning it. They see social media as providing a more authentic representation of who you are, than your interview answers. Finding out more about your qualifications was a goal for 45% of employers, so social media can be a great place to show off the communications and creative skills your CV touts.


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