Your Social Media Persona
I got a call yesterday from a publishing house in New York City. One of my former interns had given them my contact information to use as a reference for the job she was applying for. I was pleasantly surprised to get the call.
A lot of the former interns who have worked for me, or with me, go out and look for jobs. And a lot of them use me as a reference. Rarely do I ever get a call from an employer who is interviewing these students. I always wonder why.
According to researchers at Cornell University, people are more likely to lie about their work experience on a traditional resume than they are on a social media page, like LinkedIn. In fact, the study found that 92% of college students lie at least once on their resumes.
The study says that websites such as LinkedIn can lead to greater honesty when it comes to résumé claims such as experience and responsibilities. That’s because claims are more easily verified in a public, online setting, so liars are more likely to get caught. —Associated Press
Sure, many people fib on their resumes to make themselves look better. They say their hobbies include reading classical literature or writing poetry when really they spend the majority of their time watching reality television. These things are hard to verify. Which is why people have interviews—to test the legitimacy of the actual resume.
But college students, and others who are looking for work, need to be aware that employers are savvy. They are looking you up online before they call you in for an interview. And if they’re not—they should be.
When I was in graduate school, I was an online reporter intern for Inc.com. I made friends with the interns on the print side who were hired to help put together the magazine’s Inc. 500 list. It was 2006 and I wasn’t yet on Facebook.
The print team were looking to hire a new group of interns for their project, and they were looking up every college student applicant on Facebook and finding out some very interesting things. One girl, that looked impressive on paper, had photos on Facebook of her smoking a bong at a party. The editors were not impressed. I believe her resume went into the circular filing cabinet—the trash.
It was my first glimpse into how social media was affecting hiring practices, and I never forgot it. Here are some other tips on how to make yourself look better online for potential jobs:
Clean up Facebook
Make sure you don’t have any compromising photos on Facebook. Do a search for images that your friends have tagged you in and make sure they’re clean. Even if you and your friends have privacy settings in place, that doesn’t mean this info is ever really private. If an image makes you think twice, get rid of it.
As an adjunct professor, I’ve seen some pretty ridiculous email addresses from students. It’s time to ditch firstname.lastname@example.org and get something more professional. If an email address like that comes into my inbox, either my spam filter will catch it or I will—and I won’t find it amusing or cute. When you are out there sending your resume and clips for potential freelance jobs, you need to put your best foot forward—and most often that starts with your email address.
Make sure the same information you have on your resume matches what you have on your social media sites—because people will check. Any discrepancies automatically raise a red flag. The information should match—or at least be similar enough that it doesn’t look like you are lying.
Of course you are going to tailor your resume, pitches, and cover letters to each new opportunity, but don’t fabricate. If you dropped out of college a few credits shy of graduation, you did not graduate. If you paid for a seminar or professional development class, but didn’t really attend, you didn’t go.
Stay on Good Terms
If things don’t go your way on a job, and you don’t part ways amicably, do not use social media to “get back at them” because it only makes you look bad. Avoid complaining about clients online all together.
Not only can the client easily find out, if they are ever contacted by a potential future employee, they won’t hold back. Plus, no future employer wants to take the chance that they might end up the brunt of jokes and complaining on your Facebook or Twitter. They’ll just hire someone else that isn’t a loose canon.
Social media makes our lives easier in some respects, like staying in touch with family and friends, as well as sharing information. But unless you are careful, your online persona could get in the way of your professional one.