Applying for a Job? Don’t let Social Media stand in your way!

70 % of employers investigate candidates’ social media profiles in the hiring process. Learn how to best present your digital self...

26 Jun 2019 148 Views

Written by Klara Lindblom

Do you ever wonder why you did not get that job interview even though you were clearly qualified? The reason may be as simple as your Facebook page. In a world where everything is being shared online we can all be considered our own brands (Deckers & Lacy, 2018). This is the guide to an online personal ”brand lift” that will increase your chances in the hunt for a job!

I was seventeen years old and Facebook was the new ”it” among my friends and I. I shared everything on my Facebook wall: posted pictures, posts and commenting on photos I was tagged in. Little did I know then, that this content later on could have come to cost the older me my dream job.

More than every other employer has denied a candidate due to social media content, according to a 2018 survey

Screening job applicants using social media Source: Lin, 2014 [Accessed 25 Nov. 2018]
Image 1. Screening job applicants using social media. Source: Lin, 2014

Social media platforms are no longer forums for just friends and relatives, but also tools building online identity viewed and judged by a wide range of Internet users (Van Dijk, 2012: 185). If you want to increase your chances to get a job – the first step should be to look over your digital self (Hood, Robies, & Hopkins, 2014). The truth is that in many cases today, your social media platforms have become a crucial part of the job application. According to a recent research performed by Career Builder, 70 percent of employers use social media screening in the hiring process to investigate possible candidates. 57 percent of these have at least once decided not to hire a person based on his or her social media content (Hayes, 2018). The traditional ways of getting a job has been disrupted by the phenomenon of social media (McCabe, 2017) and employers tend to be more interested in a personal Facebook profile than in a well-written resume (Van Dijck, 2013). Now is the time to adjust to the new rules of the game.

Take control of your digital self

I am, just like many of you, on the edge of a job search. When our days of university one day will be over, there will be thousands of newly graduated students in the job search field fighting for the best positions. I am positive that you all have great resumes with outstanding work experiences and plenty of valuable extracurricular activities, but do you have a high personal brand value? Is your digital self representing you in a professional way? If not, well it’s time to continue reading, listen to my advices and sharpen your personal branding!

Self-promotion on social media platforms Source: Screenshot - Facebook [Accessed 25 Nov. 2018]
Image 2. Self-promotion on social media platforms. Source: Facebook 2018

Self-promotion and personal branding used in the right way can help you become successful (Deckers & Lacy, 2018). The key is to take control about what content is being showed to the virtual world (Jensen Shau & C. Gilly, 2003). We are, just like Coca-Cola or Marabou, brands that need promotion in order to let people know who we are, what we do, and what we have accomplished. People will not know who you are unless you show them and, therefore, you have to make sure that the things you post will fit your personal brand – the person you want to be associated with (Deckers & Lacy, 2018).

However, personal branding is not always easy and simple and there are many different platforms that vary in functionality and should be treated differently (Kietzmann & Hermkens, 2011). Therefore, I will give you a helping hand in the road to build a professional personal brand.

Let me introduce the online personal brand LIFT  (LinkedIn Instagram Facebook Twitter)

LinkedIn logo



This is the place to show your very best professional side (Johnson, 2017). LinkedIn could be seen as ”Facebook in a suit” (Van Dijck, 2013) and a well-created profile will efficiently help job seekers connect with employers (McCabe, 2017). This site functions as a digital resume and is used by many employers in the first step when screening candidates (Van Dijck, 2013). LinkedIn profiles may differ based on desired or current occupation (McCabe, 2017). However, here are some helpful advices to consider when building or rebuilding your LinkedIn profile:

This is the place to show your very best professional side (Johnson, 2017). LinkedIn could be seen as ”Facebook in a suit” (Van Dijck, 2013) and a well-created profile will efficiently help job seekers connect with employers (McCabe, 2017). This site functions as a digital resume and is used by many employers in the first step when screening candidates (Van Dijck, 2013). LinkedIn profiles may differ based on desired or current occupation (McCabe, 2017). However, here are some helpful advices to consider when building or rebuilding your LinkedIn profile:

  • Be consistent: Many possible employers will, most likely, make sure that your job application resume matches your LinkedIn profile (Forbes, 2018) so make sure to be consistent and stay up to date by refreshing your page on a regularly basis
  • Profile photo: This is not the platform for a bathroom selfie. The perfect LinkedIn profile picture should be of high quality and picture you as a warm and friendly person, according to Achievement and Goal Manager Duncan Brody (2017)
  • Write a kick-ass summary: This is the most important section of your LinkedIn profile – so don’t leave it blank.The summary is your opportunity to make a great first impression. Use first-person format and simply summarize your professional background, passions, and goals (Arruda, 2015)
  • Relationship building: LinkedIn is not about accepting friend requests; it is about building a network (McCabe, 2017). A large network increases the chance that employers find you through the ”chain of friends to friends” referral system (Kietzmann & Hermkens, 2011) and a wide range of relevant connections is often valued by possible employers (Forbes, 2018)

Instagram logo




Instagram does not seem to be a priority among employers in their social media screening of candidates (Van Dijck, 2013). However, Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform and the older generation is slowly adapting to this phenomenon (Internetstiftelsen, 2018). Therefore, it might be a good idea to treat your Instagram profile with care. There is a very simple solution to the problem: turn on the private setting! If that is not of your interest, just be aware that your Instagram posts reflects who you are (Ferverda, 2018) and that you proudly should represent the person behind the feed!

Facebook logo




LinkedIn may be considered most fitted in a work related context. However, Facebook is what attract employers the most. 76 % of employers tend to screen through candidates Facebook pages, compared to LinkedIn’s remarkably lower number of 48 % (Van Dijck, 2013). Self-presentation via the Facebook platform is used by one sixth of the world population (Belk, 2013). By sharing your identity to the big general masses you have to be aware of who have access to your profile and how your page represent who you are (Johnson, 2017). The following social media content have previously caused employers to exclude job candidates and should preferably be avoided on your Facebook page:

  • Inappropriate photos and videos
  • Content connected to alcohol or drugs
  • Discriminating information concerning topics such as politics, race, or religion
  • Bad communication skills
  • Qualifications that does not fit resume

      (Hayes, 2018)

On another note, when representing your digital self in the right kind of way you can influence employers to hire you. For example, 31 percent of employers decided to hire a candidate after screening their social media arguing that their personality would fit the company (Hayes, 2018).

Twitter logo




An Instagram post may take hours, or even days, before it gets posted to your feed. Filter, captions, and the right timing are all considered in order to achieve as many likes as possible. Twitter, on the other hand, has become a platform of impulsiveness (Ott, 2017). Around 90 million tweets are posted every day (Kietzmann & Hermkens, 2011) where we, the users, tend to call for attention (Van Dijk, 2012: 180) by reacting to current events, news, and happenings, often in a negative tone and without any further reflection before hitting the post button (Ott, 2017). Next time, think twice before you tweet. The person behind a Twitter account can easily be found and used in the hiring process. So try to stay professional, clean and somewhat positive – no one wants to hire a complainant.

Image 3. Example of impulsive Tweet by President Trump. Source: Twitter 2018

Now you have received the ground rules to a personal brand lift that will prepare you to represent the best possible you when applying for a job. It is important to care about your social media content, because your employers most likely will. Today, self-promotion is essential in the way to success. It is not of big effort, but can make a huge difference on your future. With these guidelines in mind you will, hopefully, be prepared to fight for the best job positions when the day of graduation is here.

When you finally get that job you applied for. Congratulations! Your social media profiles did not stand in your way. However, be aware, just because the job is yours, don’t stop handling your social media profiles with care! Because your employers will, most likely, continue to research your digital self (Hayes, 2018). So bookmark this blog post, read it once in a while, and remind yourself about the importance of self promotion!








References

Arruda, W. (2015). How to write the perfect Linkedin summary. Linkedin. [online] Avaiable at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-write-perfect-linkedin-summary-william-arruda/ [Accessed 24 Nov. 2018]

Belk, R. W. (2013). Extended Self in a Digital World. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(3), 477–500. https://doi.org/10.1086/671052

Deckers, E and Lacy, K. (2018). Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself. 3rd ed. London: Pearson Education Inc.

Dijck, J. van (2013). ’You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn. Journal of media, culture and society. 35(2) 199-215

Dijk, J. van. (2012). The network society: social aspects of new media. London: Sage Publications.

Ferverda, B. (2018). ‘‘You Are What You Post: What the Content of Instagram Pictures Tells About Users’ Personality’ (2018) 2nd Workshop on Theory-Informed User Modeling for Tailoring and Personalizing Interfaces (HUMANIZE).

Hayes, L. (2018) More Than Half of Employers Have Found Content on Social Media That Caused Them NOT to Hire a Candidate, According to Recent CareerBuilder Survey. [online] Avaliable at: http://press.careerbuilder.com/2018-08-09-More-Than-Half-of-Employers-Have-Found-  Content-on-Social-Media-That-Caused-Them-NOT-to-Hire-a-Candidate-According-to-Recent-CareerBuilder-Survey [Accessed 19 Nov. 2018]

Hood, K. M., Robles, M., & Hopkins, C. D. (2014). Personal Branding and Social Media for Students in Today’s     Competitive Job Market. Journal of Research in Business Education, 56(2), 33–47. Internetstiftelsen. (2018). Svenskarna och internet 2018. [online] Avaliable at: https://www.iis.se/docs/Svenskarna_och_internet_2018.pdf [Accessed 21 Nov. 2018]

Johnson, K. (2017). The importance of personal branding in social media: Educating students to create and manage their personal brand. International Journal of Education and Social Science. Vol. 4, No.1, 21-27.

Kietzmann JH, Hermkens K, McCarthy IP, Silvestre BS. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons. 2011;54:241-251.doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2011.01.005.

Lin, J. (2014). The Challanges You Face Using Social Media Screening and Hiring Process. [online] Available at: https://www.tlnt.com/the-challenges-you-face-using-social-media-screening-and-hiring- process/ [Accessed 19 Nov. 2018]

McCabe, MB. (2017). Social Media Marketing Strategies for Career Advancement: An Analysis of Linkedin. Journal of Business & Behavioral Sciences. 2017;29(1):85-99.

Ott, B. L. (2017). The age of Twitter: Donald J. Trump and the politics of debasement. CRITICAL STUDIES IN MEDIA COMMUNICATION, 34(1), 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1080/15295036.2016.1266686

Schau, H. J. & Gilly, M.C. (2003). We are what we post? Self-presentation in personal web space. Journal of Consumer Research, 30(3) 385-404.

7 Expert Linkedin tips a lot of people don’t really know about. (2018). Forbes. [online] Avaiable at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2018/01/22/7-expert-linkedin-tips-a-lot-of-people-dont-  really-know-about/#23f96e2f2f2a [Accessed 21 Nov. 2018]

Write a LinkedIn profile that draws in recruiters. (2017). Journal of Accountancy, 223(2), 47–48.

BrandBase | @BrandBa_se
Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.