Facebook and Twitter Etiquette for Job Hunters

How many job seekers out there have turned to social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to help them in their job search?  More and more people are using these sites to at least network with people in their field.  But job seekers need to be wary of what they put on their pages, because depending on the content, it can hurt rather than help.

Last year there was a story in the news about a woman who called in sick to work one day so she and her friend could spend the day at the beach.  Her friend took photos and posted them to the woman’s MySpace page; the woman’s boss saw them and she got fired.

Frankly, when I read some of my job-hunting friends’ tweets and status updates I want to cringe – they’re too personal, too graphic, or too blue (as in language).  Job seekers need to be aware that potential employers can – and do – look at social media sites when investigating employment candidates.  Recently a study showed that 45% of employers checked out prospective employee’s social networking pages.  Remember, unless your Facebook profile is private and your Twitter updates are locked (and sometimes even if they are), the world can see your updates, and on Twitter, anyone who knows your user name can see your tweets.

To help my friends and readers avoid such pitfalls, here are some tips for job hunting via social media.  They’re really more common sense than anything else – as (mostly) grown-up type people, we should know these things already.  But sometimes a refresher course is necessary.  Now, keep in mind these tips are just my opinions based on observation – I am not an expert, nor do I play one on the internet.  On to the list:

  1. Don’t post “oh, woe is me” or “my life sucks” status updates.  It’s okay if you’re having a bad day to say “I’m having a bad day” or something like that, but leave it at that – don’t go into details, and keep such posts to a minimum.  Nothing is a bigger turn off to an employer than a depressed prospective employee.  Try to keep things positive, or if you can’t, find an interesting link and post it.
  2. Watch your mouth!  No, I’m not your mom, and I have been known to use a four-letter word or two on occasion, but try to keep them to a minimum on social media sites, especially if you like dropping “f-bombs.”  If your status updates and posts would get bleeped out on TV, choose different words.
  3. Think before you post photos.  The photo your buddy took of you mooning out of the car window is hilarious and the one commemorating the time you drank large quantities of beer out of a beer bong may be impressive, but it might hurt you in your job search.  I recently read if you wouldn’t want your Grandma to see the photo, don’t post it.  Good advice.
  4. Try not to get too personal.  Chances are you have followed or friended people who are in your profession.  They don’t really need to know that you threw your boyfriend out last night after a four-hour knock-down, drag-out fight or that you just had the best sex of your life.  With Twitter, you can create different accounts for personal and professional use (apparently many people have several Twitter accounts for different reasons, just like email accounts.  Who knew?).  Facebook is a little tougher because usually your real name is on your account, but there is a setting to create a limited profile, so if you post a lot of personal stuff, you might want to consider that for professional contacts.  Remember, every professional contact you have is a potential future boss or colleague.
  5. Look for relevant news stories or blog posts, and post links.  My friend Jamie is really good at this – she scours the internet and finds links to articles, almost too many – she once posted so many links that Facebook locked her account!  The idea is to get people interested in checking out your page to see what you’ve found.  This will show future employers that not only do you know how to do research, you’re up on current events and know what’s going on in your field.
  6. Start a blog.  Okay, I admit I’m a little behind the eight-ball on this one myself, but it ties into #5.  Blogging will show people that you are interested in things going on in the world around you and that you can put coherent thoughts together.  It also shows that you can write, which in my opinion, is becoming a lost art.  Employers value an employee who can write well.
  7. Lern too spel yer werds korectly.  No, you have not just wandered on to the LOLcats site, I just deliberately misspelled a few words to make a point.  If you are not good at spelling and you’re not sure of a word, look it up.   This doesn’t really apply to Twitter, where you are limited to 140 characters – oftentimes shorthanded spelling is necessary to fit your thought in the space allowed.  Also, proofreading is your friend!  Re-read what your wrote before hitting “post.”  A friend of mine went for years spelling “convenience” as “conveyance” until I proofed a document for her.  She was mortified – apparently she never knew she was spelling it wrong.

There are more good tips throughout this article from Career Builder, via the Oregon Business News – 45% of Employers use Facebook-Twitter to screen job candidates

Social media and networking sites as job hunting tools are  still a relatively new phenomenon and I’m sure the rules are getting rewritten all the time, probably even as I write this.  But common sense never goes out of style.  Just remember to exercise some when posting online, whether you’re job hunting or not.  If companies are looking at prospective employees social networking pages, who’s to say your current employer isn’t looking, too?  Just something to think about.

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