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Social media has undoubtedly changed the way we do things. It’s fun to share what is happening in your life with friends and family, no matter how distant they may be. But while social media is intended to be for personal use, the way you use it can make or break your chances of employment.

When used wisely, social media can be a great tool to help you land your dream job. However, careless posting on your social media account can ruin your chances of landing a role. Sure, it's not appealing to follow rules for something that is supposed to be fun, but taking simple precautions can stop you giving potential employers a bad impression.

Technology has given recruiters the ability to get to know a candidate before hiring them. This means that your well-polished resume alone won't be good enough to land you a job - your online presence will matter as well. Therefore, it’s important to think of the consequences before you hit ‘post’.

Picture perfect! Choose the right profile picture

First impressions last and your profile picture is what sets the first impression for those viewing your social media account. Remember that even if you set your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to private and only allow your friends to see what you post, your profile picture will always be public. From just searching your name, it’s the first picture that will pop out.

Imagine if potential employers search for your name on social media and the first thing they see is a picture of you in your skimpy Halloween costume or topless dancing in a bar? Embarrassing, right? Be sure to put up a profile picture you can be proud to show even your parents! You might think that your profile photo looks fun or cool to your friends, but they’re not the only ones who will see this picture.

  • DO: Pick a profile picture that portrays you positively. Something that shows both the fun and professional you.
  • DON’T: Post a profile picture of you partying wildly or pictures you might use for a dating site.

Clean up your act! Revisit old posts

Remember Taylor Swift’s major decision to delete all her old Instagram posts just before the launch of her new album? Apparently, she did that because she wanted to get rid of the ‘old’ Taylor Swift and deleting her old posts was part of her transformation.

Have you ever considered pulling a Taylor Swift? Maybe you should! As the years go by, you’ll be facing many changes in terms of perspective, personality and choices. You probably posted something years ago that you regret now. It is alright to delete old posts that you’re not proud of anymore – especially if it’s something you don’t want your potential employers to see.

The thing is, people don’t feel the need to delete old posts because social media has no limit. Why delete an old post if you are just going to post more anyway? Let’s keep the memories, right? Wrong! People who don’t personally know you can judge you based on old pictures and things you have said – or in the case of social media – statuses you have posted. If you are now far from the college kid who cut class or the party person who loved wild nights, but pictures from those days still exist in your social media account, these pictures are basically permanent reminders of your past.

Delete photos from the past that you’re not proud of. Also, feel free to un-tag yourself from pictures that don’t paint you in a flattering way, aside from your appearance.

  • DO: Delete old pictures of wild nights and college parties that you don’t want employers to see.
  • DO: Un-tag yourself from old pictures which makes you look irresponsible.
  • DON’T: Hesitate to do it. It might cause more harm than good.
  • DON’T: Use social media as a stock room for your old memories.

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Hold your tongue! Watch your language

Using profane language and name-calling other people in arguments will give the impression that you are unprofessional and can’t handle discussions maturely. Some news posts can be aggravating and you feel the need to answer back to certain people. Do remember, however, that posts from popular news sources or blogs are public and everyone can see your comments. Try to refrain from posting comments from the social media accounts of these agencies.

If you do, however, feel the need to join in on discussions, make sure you do so in a well-mannered way – the way any professional would. How you act or speak on social media will affect how people see you.

  • DO: Answer to discussions and comments in a professional tone, especially on public posts.
  • DO: Be kind and gentle when commenting on other people’s posts.
  • DON’T: Resort to name-calling or using profane language when commenting on other people’s posts or answering to comments.
  • DON’T: Express your anger through your status.

Leave the ranting to personal conversations! That’s what friends are for

Social media is so accessible that you can become tempted to type and post your frustration without thinking twice. Be careful though, as most people may not understand the context of where you’re coming from and this could leave a bad impression.

A lot of people tend to bash their current job or employer on social media. Don’t! Don’t look for pity or support this way. One tweet against your current employer might ruin your chances of getting a role with another company.

Also, not everyone on your social media network actually cares about what’s going on with you. Others can see ranting posts as being attention-seeking or too dramatic. So share these details instead with friends who actually care about you.

  • DO: Leave the ranting to your close friends. This will make sure you are heard by people who actually care and will understand you.
  • DO: Check your emotions before you make a post.
  • DON’T: Bash anyone on social media. Especially not your current employer, as this will make you look like you’re a complainer to other employers.
  • DON’T: Leave a passive aggressive status or comment that could hint at a negative experience at work or with other people.

Keep it private! Check your privacy settings

Sure, social media is there for public viewing, but you will probably want to limit who sees your posts. After all, there are certain things you want your friends to see, but probably not your future employer.

Admit it - there are also things you may want to share with friends, but not family, and vice versa. Think baby photos, awkward puberty photos, or a picture of you dating a person your family hates. There are things that are not meant for everybody’s eyes – especially not your possible future employer.

It is tempting to keep your Instagram or Twitter account open to possibly attract more followers, but if you decide to leave it open for the public, make sure you don’t post anything negative you’ll later regret. Facebook is a more personal platform, so be careful with your privacy settings here. Make sure to customize your personal posts, so that only those who are meant to see it can view it. It is also advisable to keep all your posts viewable only to your network.

  • DO: Check if your general privacy settings allow only those in your network to see your posts.
  • DO: Customize certain post so that they will be available only to certain people.
  • DON’T: Leave your personal social media account open to everyone, unless you are sure that you won’t post anything that might leave a bad impression.
  • DON’T: Simply click ‘Agree’ to privacy setting changes without reading what it’s about.

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Leadership & Influencing Skills

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Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring is the Founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train.

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