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Social Media and the Job Hunt

By: George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student, George Waggott Law

Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Whether we use it to connect with friends, stay up-to-date on the news, or for work, almost everyone uses social

media. As we share more of ourselves online, we need to be increasingly aware of the “public nature” of social media. This is especially important when searching for a job. According to one survey by Career Builder, which interviewed hiring managers and HR professionals, more than 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates. Other studies have estimated this number to be as high as 93%.

Therefore, it is important for candidates and organizations to not only know how to ensure your social media does not harm your chances of getting a job (or attracting candidates in the case of employers), but also to know how to leverage it during the hiring process to.

What Employers Are Often Looking For

Firstly, it is important to know that not all industries are as likely to check up on social media activity. Hiring managers in IT, manufacturing, and technology are probably more likely to check a candidate’s social media than retail or sales industries. The specific social media platforms that are most often checked are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Generally, what employers are looking for is information that supports a candidate’s qualifications for the job, whether they are professional online, whether they are creative and whether they fit the workplace culture. There is also invariably going to be some review of the person’s activities, interests and opinions are.

The Red Flags

Of course, hiring managers are conducting an important screening function, so the working assumption should be that they are also looking for reasons NOT to hire candidates. It is therefore important for employees to be aware what kinds of posts employers perceive as red flags. And organizations who are recruiting need to be clear about what their process in this regard involves. For personal social media, some common red flags include references to using illegal drugs, posts of a sexual nature, overuse of profanity, bad spelling and grammar, references to guns, and photos showing alcohol consumption.

In industries where having social media could be an asset to an application, such as marketing, public relations, or jobs in the technology space, hiring managers may also be looking for additional red flags. These could include private or unsearchable social media accounts, evidence of purchasing fake followers, and accounts which show inactivity. A complete lack of presence online may well cast a negative light on a candidate’s qualifications for a job where social media is a significant part of the role.

How to Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Individuals and organizations can both use social media to their advantage. A very good starting point is to closely review personal or corporate social media to find and remove any of the red flags listed above. This may be a lengthy process. A useful next step is to make sure public social media is professional and speaks to individual qualifications or corporate accomplishments, and an ability to integrate new recruits into a workplace. Additionally, there is a substantial benefit to regular activity, which should include engagement with your industry. Finally, do not be afraid to display your personality and interests. Although social media should show expertise and the ability to be professional, readers also want to see that there is something unique to the relevant individual or organization.

Ultimately, social media is not going away anytime soon. As more industries integrate various platforms into the workplace, the onus is on employees to represent their employers professionally. By striking a balance between the professional and personal, social media can be an excellent asset in the job search process for individuals and organizations.

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