Recruiters and hiring managers sifting through your social media accounts before giving you a call is nothing new, but their vetting process might be more rigorous–and idiosyncratic–than you think. When it comes to scoping out candidates with an ideal social media presence, here’s what recruiters are actually looking for when they scope you out.
Equal Parts Attitude And Aptitude
Ariel Lopez, founder and CEO of career platform 2020Shift, says employers tend to look for a 50/50 split between “attitude” and “aptitude” when scanning job seekers’ social accounts.
“Someone that has the skills but someone that I like and want to be around for 40 hours a week” might be more likely to catch recruiters’ attention, says Lopez (who’s a former recruiter herself), than someone who hasn’t quite nailed that personal-branding equilibrium.
It’s tricky balancing professionalism with personality, especially when you use social media to share funny memes and catch up with friends in addition to showcasing your expertise. But Lopez believes there’s a risk to tamping down your personality–which recruiters know matters a lot when it comes to how you’ll fit it on a team. “I think some people forget in your career, it’s not just like a solo thing . . . When a company decides to hire you, they’re fixing a problem. You are filling a void.”
So play to each platform’s strengths. Recruiters don’t want you to treat LinkedIn like Twitter and share your every thought. But don’t treat Twitter like LinkedIn, either! While you’ll want to avoid tweeting anything offensive or crude, Lopez encourages job seekers to be themselves. If you’re showing more attitude on the one social network, just make sure you’re making up the difference in aptitude on the other.
A Sharp, Consistent Visual Brand
As most job seekers already know, profile pictures that look unprofessional–blurry, badly cropped, or show you in an inappropriate setting–can make recruiters run the other way. For starters, take the time to ask a friend to take a photo of you, rather than just using a selfie from your last vacation.
But Lopez suggests thinking beyond just your avatar. “I encourage professionals to have a style guide for themselves,” she says. “What’s your color? What’s your font? I want to get a sense of how you see yourself as a brand.” She also suggests avoiding self-proclaimed titles that might come off as pretentious or simply mischaracterize what you really do. Instead, be straightforward about your role and try to establish a professional aesthetic across all your social accounts.
This goes for your side projects, too, by the way. If you’re a gastronomy blogger, don’t come up with a “unique” title like “gastro-ninja”–just let your content speak for itself, and allow visitors to recognize on their own what makes it innovative or interesting.
A Clean LinkedIn, And A Creative Personal Site
Don’t go overboard customizing your LinkedIn. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, the professional network isn’t the place to post inspirational quotes or use tropical landscapes as your cover photo. Recruiters do care about your creative expression–they just don’t want to see it on LinkedIn.
Instead, Lopez suggests creating and linking out to your professional website, where you can show a lot more creativity than what your resume might illustrate. In other words, if you’re worried your social presence shows too much aptitude and not enough attitude, just building a new venue for the latter, says Lopez, can give you a “competitive advantage.”
Potential “Backdoor References”
On social media, your network connections can be a huge factor in helping you land a position, or at least getting you an interview. But not everyone in your social network is necessarily as valuable in that regard.
David Lewis, a former recruiter and now president of HR consultancy OperationsInc, says recruiters sometimes comb through candidates’ social profiles for so-called “backdoor references.” These aren’t the folks you reach out to in advance then pass along their contact information to prospective employers so they can sing your praises. Instead, they’re connections you may have–old coworkers at previous companies, former freelance clients–who recruiters contact on their own to get intel on your skills and experience.
According to Lewis, many recruiters believe backdoor references are more likely to be honest and provide unfiltered feedback. Needless to say, this practice can cause some issues from job seekers’ perspectives; the review one of your former employees might give you may not be as strong as the assessment of someone you’ve invited recruiters to speak to. “That ability to operate in the shadows and to do this kind of due diligence without having to own up to it is one of the biggest threats that exists to candidates these days,” says Lewis.
The solution? Easy: consider everyone in your social network–particularly your LinkedIn connections–to be potential backdoor references that diligent recruiters might track down. So comb through your accounts and trim the fat, axing anyone who may not have nice things to say about you.
In addition, as soon as you start chatting with a recruiter about an opening, do some quick research to see which connections you may have in common–not only with recruiter, but with employees at the company they represent as well. This at least gives you some insight into whom a recruiter might be reaching out to, so you can get ahead of the ball if need be.
If playing a strong social media game takes attitude and aptitude, it also takes a little strategic offense.