Eek!! How Do I Manage My Personal Brand When Looking for a Job? 5 Tips for Avoiding Social Media Profile Mistakes

Researching job candidates through social networks makes hiring decisions a little easier in the competitive job market.  As a result, social media “stalking” has now become a commonplace practice for employers.  A candidate’s “ghosts from the past” can now be easily pulled up during a job interview or screening process.  Further, social media mistakes can also be the reason why a particular candidate did not get an interview in the first place.  Indeed, according to recent studies and anecdotal evidence, over half of all employers have found unattractive material on candidates’ social media profiles that have caused them not to hire these individuals.

However, as the candidate, you shouldn’t be quick to delete all of your social media presence just because of the nerve-racking job process. That’s because having such a presence has become commonplace, as well. Conversely, NOT having one could cast you under suspicion as well. (“What are they hiding?”)

So what’s the answer? Not deleting your social media accounts completely, but editing them or “cleaning them up.” There are simple things that can be done to prepare your profile(s) to be viewed by a potential employer.

Below are five tips for avoiding social media profile mistakes:

Tip #1—Use your real name.

Your name is one of two components that a person sees upon opening your page (the other being your profile photo). While using a cute nickname or a name that has resulted from an inside joke might have cut it in high school, it simply will not do within the professional realm.

Tip #2—Use an appropriate profile photo.

It’s typically the first thing that catches a person’s eye, and it creates the first impression. Obviously, that wild party photo from last Friday night should not be someone’s first choice as a profile picture. While “selfies” have become somewhat of a norm, using a duck-face “selfie” for your profile picture is simply a poor move.

It’s easier to select a photo for Facebook, since it’s more of a social site compared to others, and employers seem to understand this. LinkedIn is another type of social media site, but slightly more unique, as it’s devoted to the art of networking. For LinkedIn, your profile photo should NOT be like Facebook or Instagram. A “selfie” simply does not look professional. One needs to invest in a decent headshot to receive the respect of potential employers.

Tip #3—Do a “virtual cleanse” every few months.

Find photographs or posts (which might not have been added by you, but by your friends) that involve drama or indicate immaturity. Delete them or make them only accessible to you, the owner of the account. However, if cleaning one’s accounts seems too overwhelming, consider making personal social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) private.

Tip #4—Follow institutions and/or causes.

According to Forbes, intellectual curiosity is one of the five traits important to most employers. Therefore, following such institutions and causes will help keep you well informed. Employers want employees who can adapt to change. Change is easier for people who are passionate about learning new information.

Tip #5—Tailor your profile to employers’ needs.

Look through the websites of companies for which you’d like to work. What is important to the companies? What are their core values? What kind of employees do they typically like to hire? Incorporate this information into your profile in a way that makes sense. You’ll be more confident during interviews, which will show in your performance.

Living in the digital age has brought many conveniences for both job seekers and employers. Regardless, social media—when used properly—can bring great success to both parties.


Jacqueline Hill, Esq.

This post was written by .

Jacqueline Hill is a partner at Lexacount Search, where she places top senior-level and other legal talent with law firms and corporate legal departments across the United States. She has been writing about careers, lawyers, attorney professional development, and the legal industry for more than a decade. She can be reached at or 215-740-0104, extension 101.

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