Even before you walk in for an interview, you can assume that the recruiter has seen your face. There are pictures of you online — and we’re not just talking about the professional one on your LinkedIn profile.
The beauty of social media is that it allows us to connect with family members and friends. We can share countless funny stories and silly pictures, which our loved ones are sure to give a virtual thumbs-up. But what will employers think of them? Without an explanation, does some of your social media activity seem a little…unprofessional?
If you think the answer to the last question is “yes,” then listen closely — these are our best tips for sprucing up your social media presence before a big interview. They might even help you get that interview in the first place!
A few tips apply across all social media:
- Rewrite your bio: When’s the last time you’ve updated your bio on your Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? A lot could have changed since the last time you wrote your elevator pitch, so start by having a look at what’s there now. If it’s no longer representative of your skills, goals and accomplishments, take time to rewrite that summary.
- Swap out your profile picture: Brush the dust off of an old headshot too. Before your interview, upload a new, professional pic that shows what you look like now. Not only will a classy photo increase the chances that you’ll get a face-to-face, but it’ll help the interviewer recognize who you are when you arrive for your appointment.
- Pick a better banner: Finally, evaluate the banner image on your social media site(s) to round out your very general refresh. You can add a rectangular, decorative picture on LinkedIn that shows off something you’ve accomplished or speaks to your expertise in your field. As for Facebook and Twitter, make sure the image you have doesn’t say too much about you outside of work — keep in mind that potential employers will undoubtedly look at your profile and evaluate these images as well.
Facebook is a huge one, and you need to keep the following in mind:
- Recheck your privacy settings: If you haven’t heard, Facebook had to publicly apologize for a data breach — your profile may have been affected. So it’d be good practice to evaluate your page’s privacy settings to see just what you’re sharing with apps as well as with strangers who happen upon your profile. The more personal information you keep private, the better. That way, you can let your in-person impression be the first one you make on employers who might check out your Facebook page before they meet you.
- Delete unnecessary apps, pages and pictures: Let’s face it — we all used Facebook differently in college. We used silly apps like Farmville to pass the time, and we “liked” funny pages and groups. Even if these types of things no longer entertain us or manage to catch our attention, they’ll undoubtedly give pause to a recruiter, who might see them as potential holes in your professionalism. The same goes for over-the-top pictures of you or images that show you engaging in unsavory extracurriculars. Always err on the side of caution by either deleting unprofessional pics or hiding them so that they’re visible only to you.
When it comes to your tweets and Twitter activity, remember to:
- Put your best first: Just as you’ll research a company pre-interview, they’ll research you too. So make it easy to find your best, most thoughtful tweets. The website allows you to “pin” your best 280-character message at the top of your profile. Choose your most impressive post and make it the first thing someone sees on your page.
- Scan for any questionable tweets: An offhanded remark or response via Twitter can get you in trouble, no matter how old it is. Make a point to re-read your tweets to delete anything that could be misconstrued and cast you in a negative light. You can also choose to make your page private throughout the interview process, just to save you the time and effort of going back and editing your oldest thoughts.
- Make your follows reputable: No matter how much you love reality TV or YouTube comedy, make sure your follow lists aren’t just chock full of non-industry social media users. Find the most influential people in your field and follow them so that future employers know you’re clued in and informed all on your own.
Instagram has it’s own rules too:
- Hashtag it right: With the right hashtag, Instagram users will have an easy time finding — and liking — your content. On the other hand, one wrong word can tie your profile to groups or trends you don’t want to associate with in the professional realm. So go back and make sure you’ve tagged only the right phrases, no matter how innocent your pictures are.
- Cultivate a strong personal brand: Instagram might be the best app for showing your followers who you are. You can share words and gorgeous pictures of your day-to-day life, travels, pets, loved ones…the list goes on. Edit your gallery so that the collection of thumbnails looks great — and like a well-rounded gallery of who you are. It doesn’t necessarily have to be professional, but it should be endearing, appropriate and interesting to see.
When in Doubt…
If you’re ever in doubt about what you can and can’t share on social media — especially in the midst of a job search — reconfigure your privacy settings. Hide your pages as much as possible, and let your first impression be an actual first impression.
Of course, your online presence doesn’t have to work against you. And with a strong, well-cultivated image, you might find that you’re even more likely to get the call, the interview and, eventually, the job. So go through all of it with a fine-tooth comb now to ensure your phone rings ASAP.