How Can Social Media Make or Break Your Interview?

Social media has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and revolutionized the way we communicate. We can reunite with childhood friends, send messages to celebrities, and share ideas, photos, and videos to anyone, anywhere. So, it’s no surprise that recruiters and employers are turning to social media to find talent. Nine out of 10 employers plan on using social media to recruit employees, and while this creates more opportunities to find jobs in a tough economy, this capability comes with new repercussions.

We’re used to having our social media profiles stay in a personal, private space. We share photos and content with our friends, and we feel we can post and say what we want. But, with social recruiting comes a new context around Facebook and Twitter. These social media channels are no longer strictly personal – our professional lives and reputation are entering the mix.

Recruiters and employers are on social media channels, and job seekers can leverage their presence on such a personal network to find their perfect jobs. What better place to build your brand, network with hundreds of connections, and showcase personal accomplishments than Facebook and Twitter? But, without precautions in place, social media can ruin the job hunt. Here are four ways social media can affect the first step of finding a job – the interview:

Two ways social media can give you a competitive advantage before the interview.

1) Networking heaven:

Half or more of all jobs come through word of mouth with your connections – friends, families, and colleagues, according to a large body of academic research. Where else can you immediately reach hundreds of people in mere seconds? Social media, of course. In fact, 60% of employers cite Facebook’s networking abilities as important.

Job seekers can use this pool of connections in two ways: first, to land the interview. When you ask your network for possible leads, chances are they will consult their own network as well, dramatically increasing the reach of your request for job opportunities. Second, once you have an interview, look through your network (friends, and friends of friends), to see if you are connected to the organization (does your childhood friend’s brother know the CEO?). When you tap into your network for jobs, make sure to treat each and every Facebook or Twitter connection as a possible client, colleague, or manager. You don’t want to raise any concerns before you even start a job.

Related: Why You MUST Complete Your Facebook Profile

2) Shows your personality:

Employers hire people they like and want to spend time with – they hire people who they think could be their friends. This makes sense, considering how much time we spend in the office.

In a face-to-face interview, it is possible that your potential employer will ask about your hobbies and personal interests to get to know you at a more personal level. But, it may not be appropriate to go off on a tangent about your European backpacking trip or your love for Italian cuisine (although that is a great way to show your personality). Instead, get a leg up before the interview and use your Facebook profile to showcase your personal experiences. Post (appropriate) pictures of your last trip, of your soccer team, or your community involvement to show your out-of-the-office side.

And two ways social media can risk your professional reputation.

3) You are instantly associated with your whole network:

You may have the perfect social media profile – you don’t have any profanity, alcohol references, and your photos are clean and show who you are. But, what are your 400 friends posting and tagging you in? All it takes is one out-there friend tagging you in an offensive post to rip apart your credibility and professionalism. If a potential employer sees a questionable photo in which you’re tagged, he won’t care if it’s your photo or a friend’s photo – the photo will raise eyebrows and question your professionalism.

Read more: Why Your Facebook Friends Matter to Employers

4) The internet never forgets:

Facebook has been around a long time, and in those nine years, we are all certainly allowed mistakes, embarrassing moments, and/or regrets. The problem is that while our friends may forgive and forget, Facebook does not. No one, not even the most perfect candidate, wants photos or posts of them from their teenage years. Be aware that recruiters and potential employers will look at your profile, and they will go back in time. And with the relatively new Facebook Timeline, it only takes a few swipes of the finger to view what you were doing in 2009.

Social media recruiting is becoming more and more important – for employers, it is a cost-effective, convenient way to find talent and to prescreen candidates. And for job seekers, once they understand the potential dangers of Facebook (one offensive post can scar your reputation), they can easily build a positive, personal brand that will make them an appealing candidate. An employer is more likely to interview a candidate that has a fun, interesting profile than someone who has maximum privacy filters turned on and doesn’t allow employers to get to know them.

Author: Lee Sherman is the founder and CEO of, a social media utility dedicated to helping Facebook and Twitter users protect their professional reputations on social media.

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