Dear Job Applicants, This Is What Employers Actually Want to See on Your Social Media

More employers than ever are using social media to snoop on candidates, a survey by CareerBuilder has found. Seventy percent of employers are checking out applicants’ profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter before they make hiring decisions, according to the survey of 2,300 hiring managers conducted in February and March of 2017. In 2006, only 11% of companies took the time to look at a person’s profiles during the hiring process.

Anxious job seekers might be tempted to thwart employer spying by deleting their profiles entirely. After all, it’s better to have no online presence than a bad one, right? Not so fast. Many companies won’t hire people who don’t have any social media presence, the CareerBuilder survey found.

“Most workers have some sort of online presence today — and more than half of employers won’t hire those without one,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said in a press release. “This shows the importance of cultivating a positive online persona.”

Rather than deleting their profiles, job seekers should craft an attractive online image to boost their chances of getting a job. In fact, 44% of employers have hired someone because of the information they found on social media. Here are six things employers say they want to see on your social media, plus some tips for sprucing up your profiles if you’re coming up short.

1. Evidence that you exist

Thinking young woman looking up at many question marks

Employers might be confused when they can’t find you on social media. |

Fifty-seven percent of employers CareerBuilder surveyed said they were less likely to call someone in for an interview if they couldn’t find them online. Yet a huge chunk of American adults aren’t using major social networking sites. A third of American adults don’t use Facebook, a 2016 Pew Research survey found. Only 25% are on LinkedIn. The majority also aren’t active on Twitter or Instagram.

Next: Taking the social media plunge

Building a social media presence

logo for LinkedIn

Having a LinkedIn profile can help your job search. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s a strong case to be made for staying off social media. Facebook and other social networking sites can make us unhappy and depressed, research has found. But HR managers now expect to find some evidence of you online, so if you’re a job seeker who’s been resisting the pull of social media, it might be time to take the plunge.

Start with LinkedIn. It’s designed specifically for professional networking, so you shouldn’t have to deal with friend requests from random high school acquaintances or a barrage of stupid memes in your update feed. You can use the site to build a professional profile, search for jobs, connect with recruiters, and research companies. Plus, virtually all employers use LinkedIn in candidate recruitment, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Next: Being online isn’t enough for employers these days.

2. A professional persona

facebook login screen on phone

What does your Facebook profile say about you? | Saed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Having an online presence isn’t enough for HR. They also want to see that your online persona is professional, an important factor for half of those surveyed by CareerBuilder. Unfortunately, many job seekers aren’t measuring up. Fifty-four percent of employers have found something on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate.

Next: How to clean up your digital persona 

Professionalizing your social media profiles

man in suit holding a smartphone

Your social media profiles should be as professional-looking as your interview attire. |

Twitter and Facebook blunders can sink your chances of landing a job. The biggest red flags were inappropriate photos, sharing information about drinking or using drugs, racist or sexist comments, and bad-mouthing a former employer, according to HR managers who talked to CareerBuilder.

If your social media past is less than savory, start by scrubbing your profiles clean. Drunken photos and ill-advised status updates need to go to the digital dustbin. You can also change the privacy settings on personal profiles, such as Facebook, so sneaky employers can’t dig too deep into your private life. But even if you’re trying to keep things among friends, you should still be careful what you post. There’s no guarantee an inflammatory post or questionable photo will stay private.

Next: Do you have what it takes to do the job?

3. Your qualifications for the job

woman having job interview

Don’t wait until the job interview to show off your qualifications for a position you want. |

Don’t count on your resume to tell your entire career story. Sixty-one percent of hiring managers told CareerBuilder they were searching social media to find evidence that an applicant had the necessary qualifications for the job. Plus, 38% said their research led them to discover additional information that helped bolster a candidate’s qualifications and led them to make a job offer.

Next: How to highlight your qualifications on social media

Showcasing your qualification on social media


The LinkedIn homepage | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/GettyImages

Sure, you can just use LinkedIn to duplicate information from your resume, but that’s not what most employers are really looking for when they’re using social media to research your qualifications. Sixty-one percent of HR pros surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said they used social media screening to find information that wasn’t on a person’s resume or in their cover letter.

Social media profiles give you a way to show off your qualifications in a concrete way. Share examples of your work, articles where you’ve been quoted, and information about awards and accolades. Participating in discussions, sharing relevant content, and connecting with industry leaders can also make you look like a strong, well-rounded candidate. And make sure what you share online backs up your resume. If you say you’re a grammar stickler, you better make sure your posts are free of typos and other errors.

Next: Are people singing your praises online?

4. Praise from other people

woman giving thumbs up

Do your colleagues give your work a thumbs up? |

The information you share online isn’t the only thing you need to worry about during a job search. Thirty-seven percent of employers are also looking for what other people have to say about you, according to CareerBuilder. In other words, they’re trying to get a sense of your reputation beyond the carefully crafted image you present in your resume or in your cover letter.

Next: How to boost your online reputation

Getting kudos from others

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The Facebook “like” button | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

You can’t control what others say about you, making this one of the hardest areas of your online reputation to control. Fortunately, you can take advantage of LinkedIn’s recommendations feature, which allows people in your professional network to sing your praises for all to see.

You can request these recommendations directly through LinkedIn (and send a personalized message when doing so). Make sure you’re getting recommendations from people who are actually familiar with your work, and be sure to reciprocate in kind if asked. The Balance has more tips on the fine art of cultivating LinkedIn recommendations.

Employers will also be excited to see more spontaneous examples of praise. Shout-outs on Twitter and complimentary comments on articles you’ve written are worth their weight in job-hunting gold. Use Google Alerts to monitor these mentions.

What if your online reputation is slightly damaged? You can try hiding older information with new content. If things are really bad — such as you’ve been the victim of a smear campaign — there are reputation management professionals who will help you out.

Next: Companies are looking for good communicators.

5. Proof of your communication skills

candidate in a job interview

Employers aren’t just judging your communication skills in job interviews. | iStock

Social media is all about communication. So it’s no wonder HR is turning to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to get a handle on candidates’ communication skills. Thirty-seven percent of hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder said the stellar communication skills displayed on a person’s social media influenced their decision to hire a candidate.

Next: How to be a star communicator

Cultivating your communication skills

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Impress a hiring manager with your tweets. | Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

Every aspect of your social media presence, from your profile photo to your status updates, is a chance to show off your communication skills — or lack thereof. More than a quarter of HR managers said the poor communication skills displayed on a job seeker’s social media meant they didn’t hire that person. Seventeen percent were turned off by the frequency of a candidate’s posting. Twenty-two percent raised their eyebrows at inappropriate usernames.

To avoid raising red flags with an employer, make sure your usernames are professional and that you’re not using inappropriate language or sharing a stream of updates during the workday (evidence you’re more interested in your phone than your work). How you communicate online is a sign of how you’ll communicate in the workplace, so you want to look polished and professional at all times.

Next: Are you a creative genius?

6. Signs of creativity

man using tablet

Use social media to highlight your creativity. |

Twenty percent of companies say they’re looking to hire creative employees, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, while 35% of hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder said the creativity displayed on a job seeker’s social media profiles led to a job offer. That’s what happened to this writer for career website The Muse, who landed her job after her future boss found her Instagram account and was impressed by her creativity.

Next: How to show off your creative chops

Crafting a creative profile

man with camera

You don’t need to be an artist to be creative. |

Job seekers looking to land gigs in fields, such as the arts, media, fashion, and entertainment, already know having an online presence that showcases their creative skills is essential. But even if you’re not a designer or writer, your social media can be a way to highlight your creativity and personality.

You can use your social media to craft a narrative about your career, share witty status updates, or even share stories about how you found an unusual solution to a stubborn problem. You can even add videos to your LinkedIn profile or use Snapchat Stories to showcase your skills, suggested The Muse.

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