In a Harris Poll survey of 2,000 hiring and human resources managers nationwide, across industries and company sizes, 35% expressed this view. A solid 52% stated that they use social networking sites to research job candidates.
The numbers may actually be higher now; this poll was taken in 2015.
These employers aren’t necessarily looking for negatives like compromising photos or negative comments about the boss. Most of them are looking for evidence that supports your qualifications: a professional persona that demonstrates good judgment and networking skills. And they’re looking for “social proof”: LinkedIn recommendations and other positive comments about you.
It’s time to get on LinkedIn at the very least, whether or not you’re looking for a job right now. A good profile takes time: to get it written, to develop a good-sized network of connections and to obtain those so-important recommendations. Build it before you need it.
If you’re concerned about privacy or identity theft, learn how to be online safely rather than shying away automatically. Here are just a few tips: Don’t include your high school, mention your pet by name, or – god forbid! – post your full birth date, since financial institutions often ask for these facts to confirm identities. You may want to post a more general “metro area” location name, rather than your specific city. Consider carefully before posting your email address or phone number. And of course, use a very strong password that you don’t use for anything else.
After LinkedIn, you might consider other options that might fit your interests, occupation and needs: maybe an online portfolio, professional blog or personal (but professional!) website. Consider professional networking platforms beyond LinkedIn.
As for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like, although these aren’t conceived as professional networking arenas, they can be useful if carefully curated to support your professional brand. If skillfully done (and that’s a big “if”), a blending of personal and professional interests on social media can help employers feel that they know and trust you.
And don’t be overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Start with one platform. For most people, LinkedIn is by far the most important place to be seen online. Create an excellent profile and gain the benefits of a professional online presence – attention from recruiters, job interviews, offers, and advancement of your career.