Thatâ€™s the message of aÂ CareerBuilder survey that landed in the news this week.
Uh oh. Red-flag time. Weâ€™re used to cautioning our college age kids, nephews and nieces to clean sweep their Facebook and other online pages, as job-hunting time rolls around. But in todayâ€™s job market, that means you too even if you are simply seeking a part-time job in retirement.
Iâ€™m relentlessly roaring to job seekers in their 50s and 60s to join Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook. I urge you to have a LinkedIn profile, in particular, and to join discussion groups for networking, ask for recommendations and so on.
If you perused my Forbesâ€™ column onÂ Ten Things to Do When You Lose Your Job When You Lose Your Job, you know itâ€™s in my top five things to do pronto when you get your walking papers.
Having a social media presence is non-negotiable in todayâ€™s job market, period. Thatâ€™s how recruiters find you, and how you learn about job opportunities and network with old pals working in industries, or in companies youâ€™re eyeing for employment.
For me, my LinkedIn profile is my working resume. It lets anyone who wants to know about my background, awards, interests, and so on see it all in a straightforward format that I can tweak easily.
But when this weekâ€™sÂ Â CareerBuilder survey popped up I thought, itâ€™s time for a review of online protocol for all of us 50-plus jobseekers.
While your social media profile can be a real selling tool in your job search, the CareerBuilder study shows it can also end up costing you the job.
More than two in five hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year.
The nationwide survey, which was conducted online by Harris InteractiveÂ© on behalf of CareerBuilder from February 11 to March 6, 20l3, included more than 2,100 hiring managers and human resource professionals.
Egad. In my heart, I believe at this age, we all know better than to make these egregious mistakes on line. But hereâ€™s what turned up as the biggest turnoff for potential employers.
Candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos/info â€“ 50 percent
There was info about candidate drinking or using drugs â€“ 48 percent
Candidate bad mouthed previous employer â€“ 33 percent
Candidate had poor communication skills â€“ 30 percent
Candidate made discriminatory comments related to race, gender, religion, etc. â€“ 28 percent
Candidate lied about qualifications â€“ 24 percent
Tread Lightly. Got it. Be careful. Itâ€™s all about good taste and decorum. Even when youâ€™re posting pictures from your vacation, or of your lovely Labrador retriever, as I am known to do, or commenting on a high school palâ€™s post, think before you push the post button.
What you do online is not like Vegas. It doesnâ€™t just stay there. It floats out into the virtual airspace, and itâ€™s, well, virtually impossible to reel it in.
I cringe at using the word â€œbrandâ€ when applied to people and not Oreos, but itâ€™s a fact of life in the digital age. We are the sum of our parts.
Please, donâ€™t let this report scare you offline. Hereâ€™s what you need to do right now.
Update your personal privacy settings on any social media sites.
Search Yourself on Google and other online search engines. You will find what others can read about you. Delete the bad bits, if possible, or be prepared to discuss.
Watch out for friends tagging you on Facebook. You can un-tag yourself. Do it.
Use with Care. Employers really do want to learn more about you outside of your resume and interview. And they will. They do their own sleuthing to get a fuller picture of who you are, your personality and interests. Theyâ€™re simply doing their due diligence to see if you fit into their company culture and so forth.
Meantime, there was some positive social media feedback in this new report. Career Builder reports that one in five hiring managers said they found something that has caused them to hire a candidate â€“ top mentions include: conveyed a professional image, got a good feel for candidateâ€™s personality, showed a wide range of interests, background information supported professional qualifications, other people posted great references about the candidate.
So there you have it, use it to your advantage. Here are my six tips for a solid online professional personality: (You can find more here.)
1. Facebook is fine, but keep a lid on it. If you set your privacy settings properly, and highlight your work experience and education on your profile, the site has lots to offer. Itâ€™s OK to list your hobbies and comment or post articles you find interesting, but keep it in good taste.
Think of the big players like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, for instance, as a way to let people learn a little about you. Plus, you are building your network with people who know you from high school, college and throughout your working life. Trust me, they can turn out to be great sources when youâ€™re job hunting. You never know where you might get an introduction to a potential employer, or hear of a job opening.
2. Show expertise. Thereâ€™s no easier way to showcase what you know to a broad audience of potential colleagues, networking contacts, and hiring managers than via social media. Social media makes it easier for people to learn about you, and thatâ€™s necessary to land a job.
Start by taking simple actions. You can share your know-how by posting a link to a relevant article on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook page with your own short commentary, or chime in on a LinkedIn group discussion, even if it means merely checking the â€œLikeâ€ button.
3. Hip to technology. When hiring managers see that youâ€™re using social media, it can help alleviate their worry about you as an older applicant who is behind the curve when it comes to technology.
4. Portray a well-rounded candidate. Donâ€™t be bashful about posting your interests and volunteer activities. A well-rounded profile creates an impression of who you are and how you balance your personal and professional life.
Iâ€™m an active member of LinkedIn groups that relate to my current work, alma mater, past employers, and more. I comment on posts from others and add in my own.
Recruiters look at the summary of your LinkedIn profile, for example, for a snapshot of your career history, connections, and recommendations, and that can make or break their decision whether to call you for an interview. This is your big chance to pitch yourself in your best possible light.
5. Add the window-dressing. A professional headshot is a must. And ask ex-colleagues, previous bosses, and clients to write recommendations and endorse you on LinkedIn.
6. Sign up for a Twitter account. Iâ€™m a Twitter fan for a bunch of reasons, but one selling point is that thereâ€™s no need for a personal introduction or recommendation, which you need with LinkedIn. Just by following tweets, you can stay up to date on people and companies you may wind up interviewing with.
Social media isnâ€™t going away, but never forget that what you post online tells your story. Make it a bestseller. Kerry Hannon, Contributor (Forbes)