According to a recently published study, Facebook profiles are good indicators of job performance. A 10-minute review of a Facebook profile can give a hiring manager clues about your personality type and insights as to how you’ll fit into the company’s work (or not) and succeed on the job (or not). It’s no surprise, then, that more employers are reviewing Facebook profiles when screening potential new hires. The trick for job seekers is to make sure they’re presenting their best, most employable self on Facebook.
In January, U.K. business psychology firm OPP reported that 56% of employers now review the Facebook profiles of job applicants. Employers see Facebook as a place where they can weed out candidates from their pool of thousands of resumes. Unfortunately for job seekers, there’s no second chance to make a first impression. In a survey last year of companies that screen applicants’ social media sites, such as Social Intelligence, 73% don’t give applicants an opportunity to address racy, odd, or otherwise questionable information gathered via social media sites, says the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). More likely: The job candidate is simply eliminated from the hiring process.
A Jobvite study from 2011 found that 84% of job seekers had profiles on Facebook, and 63% of them were actively searching for jobs. Everyone knows of the opportunity to network via Facebook, and now we know that such networking can result in gainful employment: A total of 18.4 million Americans, in fact, have credited Facebook as the source that led to their current job.
On the other hand, it’s impossible to estimate how many candidates were not hired, or even brought in for interviews, because of information gathered on Facebook. Observers have been discussing the wisdom of online discretion for years, and it appears that some of us have been listening: A Pew Internet survey concludes that 58% of social network users have private profiles.
Plenty of others aren’t all that careful about their profiles, and too much sharing of the wrong kind of information can hurt your chances of landing a job. The smart approach is to think of your Facebook profile as an extension of your resume. It needn’t be overly polished or portray you as a workaholic, and it certainly shouldn’t come off as fake or contrived.
When creating and updating your profile, make it authentic. Trying to con employers into hiring you isn’t smart because eventually they’ll see through your profile and discover the real you. Furthermore, if you do succeed in getting hired based on false advertising, the job could be a horrible fit for you and your employer alike. The goal is to showcase your best self on Facebook, and to be especially mindful that what you post could—and probably will—be seen by someone with the power either to hire you or move on to the next candidate.
With that in mind, here are some tips for using Facebook to land your next job:
1. Sign up and be active. Having a Facebook account is standard nowadays. If you don’t have an account, then you won’t appear relevant to employers in many industries. Especially in fields such as PR and marketing, it’s essential to become proficient in using social media because this is how people are communicating, networking and doing business these days. People are already in the habit of searching on Facebook for the names of people they meet at events, bars, and weddings, and yes, they’ll also look on Facebook for the person they’ll be sitting down with in an upcoming job interview. If you don’t have an account, or if the profile is half-complete or barely used, the searcher may wonder whether you have something to hide or you’re completely behind the times.
2. Shape your profile according to the top five personality traits. The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, which is publishing the study mentioned at the top of this story, lists the top five personality traits that a Facebook profile reveals: conscientiousness, emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion, and openness to experience. Ideally, your profile will paint you in a positive light for all of these traits. To be viewed favorably in terms of conscientiousness, you need to be organized, thoughtful and disciplined about what you post. Sharing a link to a news story and commenting on it thoughtfully? Yes. Sharing a link to a racist organization? No. For emotional stability, try to refrain from frequent posts that could demonstrate mood swings—complaining about your significant other one moment, then praising them as your soul mate the next. As for agreeableness, avoid rants and nasty comments bashing the opinions and tastes of others. To exhibit extraversion, push yourself to comment on friends’ wall posts and meet as many new friends as you can. For openness to experience, add Facebook applications that display the books you’re reading, the charities you’re donating to, the songs you’re listening to, and anything else that shows that you’ve engaged in new activities over time.
3. Add professional networking applications to your Facebook profile. Many services allow users to tap into their Facebook networks to reveal job opportunities. One is BeKnown, an application developed by Monster (disclosure: a client of mine), which leverages your social graph to connect you to Monster’s massive database of job postings. You can keep your profile public, while asking for introductions and building up your network. Another is BranchOut, which works similarly to BeKnown, and has over 3 million jobs and 20,000 internship postings. Finally, Glassdoor.com (disclosure: a business partner of mine), known for its salary and employer reviews, has a section called “Insider Connections,” which uses your Facebook information to introduce you to people who can refer you to a job. All three of these tools will help you maximize a strong network of family, friends and acquaintances on Facebook. While many of the job openings posted on these applications can be found elsewhere on the web, the advantage of incorporating Facebook is that you can learn about individuals in your network who can refer you to jobs you really want. It’s much easier to leverage your current relationships than to have to find and build new ones.
4. Review your privacy settings and limit old status updates. Just about everyone has the new Facebook “Timeline” profile now. With Timeline, all of your old status updates, photos and videos are now searchable by your friends and possibly the public at large. Since employers are judging you based on your picture and updates, it’s imperative that you take necessary precautions. First, select the option in the privacy settings page that says “limit the audience for past posts.” By doing this, the content on your Timeline will be available to only your friends. Second, limit the posts by others on your timeline by turning on the “Timeline Review” and “Tag Review” options. Then, whenever your friends tag you on Facebook, you have the ability to approve them before they are posted on your wall. You can also restrict specific people or groups of people from viewing what others post on your wall by going to “How You Connect” under the privacy settings and choosing “Custom.” Finally, you can block each post manually by searching your Timeline by year and limiting who can see them.
5. Promote yourself and share professional-related content. One of the benefits of the new Timeline profiles is that you can choose a background image. You can use it to promote your interests, a major accomplishment, or a life experience you’ve had. You can also install Facebook applications such as the “Washington Post Social Reader” (showing that you keep up on current events) and “Where I’ve Been” (showing that you’re well-traveled). It’s also a good idea to share professional related content found on blogs and traditional media outlets, inspirational quotes from business leaders, and surprising facts. By doing so, you’ll appear more knowledgeable, relevant and interesting to employers.
Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. He speaks on the topic of personal branding, social media and Gen Y workforce management for companies such as Google, Time Warner, Symantec, CitiGroup and IBM. Subscribe to his updates at Facebook.com/DanSchawbel.
SPECIAL: The Future of Work