The impacts of social media on job prospects for students

There’s no doubt that for many of us, social media has become an integral part of our lives.

While social media can be a great platform for self-expression and connection, you may not realise that your social media activity could significantly impact your future job prospects.

In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at how social media posts could have both positive and negative effects on your future careers.

The facts

“Social media posts can reveal a more honest view of an applicant than what they might share during an interview.”

Marlene Allen Murray, Business Litigation Attorney at Fennemore Craig

Back in 2018, CareerBuilder did a study of over 1,000 employers and found:

  • 70% of employers said they use social networking sites to research job applicants during hiring process
  • 28% say they use social media to gather more information before calling in a candidate for an interview
  • 47% say that if they can’t find you online, they’re less likely to call you for an interview
  • 20% of prospective employers polled said they expect applicants to have an online presence
  • A whopping 54% of companies admitted to eliminating a candidate based on their social media fee

What potential employers are looking for:

  • 58% said they’re looking for information that supports your qualifications for the job
  • 50% are looking to check your professional persona
  • 34% are checking to see what other people have posted about you
  • 22% are looking to see if there are any reasons not to hire you

In addition:

  • Nearly half of employers (48%) admitted to checking up on current employees on social media, which may not be entirely ethical but it’s worth being aware of
  • 34% of employers have reprimanded or fired an employee based on content found online

In 2023, Zippia reported:

  • 57% of job seekers use social media to find job opportunities
  • 73% of job seekers aged 18-34 found their latest job through social media
  • 84% of organisations social media for recruitment
  • 67% of employers use social media sites to research potential job candidates (similar to 5 years ago)
  • 70% of managers said they’ve had success hiring through social media
  • 94% of recruiters said that they use social media to find and check out candidates
  • 71% of hiring managers agree that social media profiles are an effective way to screen job applicants.

“It’s 2023, and what is posted on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter—and even Facebook for the nostalgic—is an accessible, non-invasive way of gaining insight on your candidate. You’re not stalking or “creeping”. You’re accessing information that anyone can see.”

Jeff Williams, VP of enterprise and HR solutions at Paychex

And Market Splash found:

  • Mobile recruiting has increased by 60% in the last two years.
  • Recruiters use an average of 15 different job boards to post a single job listing
  • 78% of companies plan to increase their spending on social media recruitment

Ultimately, what this means is that if you’re still in high school and are thinking about future career goals, it’s going to be worth your time creating an online presence, even if it’s just a professional account that you only use as job prospecting tool. Otherwise you could find that you’ll miss out on opportunities.

The negatives

As you can see from the stats above, lots of employers use social media to help the recruitment process along. These are a few examples to bear in mind of how your social media content could turn off potential employers:

  • Inappropriate content: Posting inappropriate or offensive content, including photos, comments, or videos, could seriously harm your professional reputation and even stop you from getting a job.
  • Questionable conduct: If you or the people you hang out with have ever engaged in activities that are illegal or might raise questions about your judgement or character, and you’ve posted about it, alluded to it, or been tagged, potential employers may question your suitability for a role and choose to skip progressing your application.
  • Poor communication skills: Frequent grammatical errors, offensive language, or an inability to express yourself effectively and respectfully could well be red flags for employers evaluating your communication skills and professionalism.
  • Misalignment with company values: If your social media presence highlights views, opinions, or personality traits (e.g. work ethic, honesty, reliability, etc.), that are in stark contrast to the organisations values where you’re applying, you could find yourself disadvantaged in the hiring process.

While it may seem that you’re damned if you have social media and damned if you don’t, it just pays to be aware. Perhaps now is a good time for an overhaul of your online accounts so that you relax and start to harness all the advantages that social media has to offer for future job opportunities and networking within your chosen industries.

The positives

On the flip side, there are lots of way that social media, used appropriately, could help you to show yourself as a credible, proactive, forward thinking, and showcase your expertise or work experience, connect with other industry professionals, and ensure you stay updated on the latest trends and opportunities.

  • Showcase your professionalism: For example, you could create a LinkedIn profile to highlight your achievements, skills, and educational background. It’ll allow you to contribute to conversations, and find valuable connections from mentors to potential employers. With care and some regular attention, social media could become a powerful tool for you.
  • Industry-specific content: Engaging with industry-specific content on social media platforms could boost your knowledge and help you to stand out. Following professionals and organisations in fields that you’re interested in, signing up for newsletters, or participating in relevant discussions could boost your confidence and visibility, grow your connections, and help you become an informed individual within your chosen industry.
  • Build a positive personal brand: By thinking carefully about what your professional goals are, you can share interests and accomplishments relevant to your career goals, which could help employers quickly see you as an asset for their organisation.
  • Networking: Networking is crucial in today’s job market. Platforms like LinkedIn offer you the chance to connect with professionals, mentors, and alumni who could provide guidance and even job opportunities. Building a strong network early on is invaluable, but it pays to be selective about your connection requests, personalise your messages or invitations,  and keep your connections meaningful.
  • Increase your opportunities: Look for job openings and connect with potential employers. Social media is a great way to connect with people in your local community and much further afield, meaning you’ll be opening yourself up to way more prospects.

What you should do next

 If you’re feeling overwhelmed about your next steps now that you know what all the pros and cons of social media are, here’s a few ways to start making positive changes:

  • Update privacy settings: First, ensure that your posts and photos on existing social media accounts are only visible to friends. Have a cull of your friends and followers, remove anyone you don’t recognise, and in future be careful of who you accept as a friend or follower.
  • Define your personal brand: Identify your values, strengths, professional goals, and what makes you unique in your field.
  • Optimise your accounts: Highlight your professional identity by using a professional looking headshot, customising your bio, and providing an overview of your skills and experience. Update it regularly too.
  • Think twice before posting: It’s all too easy to share a meme or a post that you might find funny or represents your belief systems, but if there’s a chance it could be misinterpreted or come across as offensive, inappropriate, or negative…just don’t.
  • Respect the platform: Keep your professional, career-related accounts separate from your personal social accounts. For example, if you have LinkedIn, don’t share memes (unless they’re career or industry related and couldn’t be take the wrong way) or too much personal content. Keep it for professional networking and learning. Perhaps you could even set up separate accounts using a nickname just for your social content, friends, and family.
  • Be proactive: Bear in mind that what goes on the internet, stays on the internet – forever! Even if you want it deleted, it could help you make sure that you make good choices and that your online interactions don’t damage your future potential.

Work social media to your advantage

Your online presence is your responsibility, and the way you use it could potentially bolster or hinder your future job prospects.

As employers are increasingly using online screening to evaluate candidates, an online persona does seem like a good idea; you’ll just need to use it wisely. By being professional, respectful, looking for relevant content, building a positive personal brand, and networking, you’ll be able to harness to power of social media to your advantage.

Social media should be seen as a powerful tool that could open doors to future careers. So, the next time you post, remember that it could impact your future in ways you may not have imagined and tailor your content accordingly.

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