Who could have predicted a decade ago that social media would have such a grip on our lives? The rise of social media can be seen as both a godsend and a threat to jobseekers. Why? Because not everyone is sure how to use it.

HR departments no longer have the time or resources to plough their way through hundreds of CVs. They want to be able to see if the applicant is worth bringing in for an interview. Social media, if used correctly, can propel a job application to the top of the pile – simply by being different and innovative.

Social media makes it very easy to see what makes a prospective employee tick – giving employers a view of that candidate before they actually meet them.

What you do on social media has the power to help, or severely hinder, your chances of a job interview. Three quarters of recruiters have looked up potential candidates on social media, according to the Guardian Jobs Recruiter Survey 2015. Of those who said yes in the Guardian Jobs survey, LinkedIn was the most popular channel (96% used this), followed by Facebook (56%), Twitter (41%) and Instagram (7%).

How to do it right

So, how do you make sure you create the right impression? The first thing you should do is set up a profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn to give yourself a better chance of being noticed. Get your name out there. You may find that you connect with people who end up on your interview panel or who have the power to shortlist you for a position.

Facebook and Twitter can also reap great rewards if harnessed correctly. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, comment on industry trends and news, and follow the right people in that sector to try and attempt interaction.

While the majority of employers don’t like CVs with photos, it makes sense to get a shot done for your social media platforms that looks professional.

Be prepared for the echo chamber that is Twitter. Don’t be downhearted if you’re not followed by those you’re following, or if your attempts to start a conversation with an industry bigwig are ignored. Interaction through social media will happen, but don’t try and force it.

Showcase your knowledge
Use social media as a means to showcase your knowledge and thought leadership through publishing articles and blogs on your LinkedIn profile, says Charles McIntosh, head of talent consulting at recruitment firm New Street.

Professor Vlatka Hlupic, director of the executive coaching and leadership development programme at Westminster Business School, agrees: “Strategically developed LinkedIn feeds with carefully written profiles, professional photos, good recommendations and endorsements could be a very valuable tool for securing job interviews and employment.”

Build networks and demonstrate confidence
Social media can be used to build professional networks and demonstrate confidence, Hlupic points out. “Keep growing your networks, connect with new relevant contacts continuously, share relevant posts and articles (both written by you or others), join professional groups, participate in discussions and most importantly, enjoy networking.”

Effective social media use can also reveal a lot about a person’s confidence, adds Croucher. “If they are sharing lots of interesting things, and making insightful comments or forming strong opinions, and interacting with others in a positive way, it shows their ability to rally people behind them and develop effective relationships.” 

How to do it wrong

Facebook and Twitter can be great when it comes to showing off your talents, but there is nothing more stupid than thinking employers won’t check you out before deciding whether or not you’re worth an interview.

Think about photos
Photos are a big element to consider when you see what your search trawls up. “I’ve come across several dodgy photos, even on professional social media sites such as LinkedIn,” says recruitment professional Kate Croucher, FDM Group’s university relationship manager.

Candidates need to keep in mind that your visible photos across social media accounts make a first impression before you’ve even met a potential employer or recruiter – and that can help and hinder you.

“If in doubt, delete or suspend any social media account where the content could be deemed as damaging to your job search,” adds McGuane.

Beware of online rants and outbursts
Social media allows people to react instantly to situations, sharing their thoughts with an audience of anonymous listeners. Thanking a company or shop for treating you well or for going the extra mile spreads good cheer and thankfulness and has a positive impact, but ranting about your employer who made you stay late twice this week is spreading a negative message, points out Nicola McGuane, a consultant at recruitment firm Morgan McKinley. “Remember the six degrees of separation theory; everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so it’s highly likely that your employer will find out about your online rant.”

Offensive language is a no-go. Any keyboard warrior can mouth off at others online, but it’s there for everyone to see. Do you really want to lose sight of your dream job just because of a risqué, off-the-cuff remark to one of your friends on Facebook or Twitter?

Depending on what role you’re after, it might also be wise to steer clear of posting anything too political. While no employer can discriminate against you on political grounds, everyone has different views on what goes on in the world, and they might not want differing opinions to disrupt the office.

Privacy settings can only do so much
Using the strictest privacy settings on social networks like Facebook is a good start, but it doesn’t guarantee to keep your profile away from a potential employer’s eyes. “The world has become a much smaller place and you never know who your future boss is connected to, allowing them to see your activities,” warns McGuane. For that reason, it’s worth keeping your social postings on the tame side so that future employers don’t misjudge you, she says. “Some job seekers are known to suspend or delete certain social media accounts during their job seeking. It may sound drastic but it’s worth it to secure your dream job.”

Google yourself and consider your digital footprint
Search your name, just like a potential employer might do, to see what comes up. Is it good or bad? Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter. They will be asking questions such as, “Is this someone I would like to work with knowing what they publicly post online?”

It’s also important for candidates to realise that every “like”, comment, status update or photo posted online – whether it’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – leaves a mark on their digital footprint. “This digital footprint allows a potential employer to trace/track your online activity and get a sense of your character which could impact you positively or negatively,” says McGuane.

Make sure you take these things into consideration:

  • There is a difference between showing personality and pushing out photos of you and your mates partying. They might not go down so well with your potential future boss.
  • Clean up your profile – it’s a given that companies check social media these days.
  • Use the internet to promote yourself and your talents.
  • Don’t let stupidity scupper your chances of success.

More employers are using social media to screen prospective employees, with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn being among the most popular. So, before you post ask yourself: do you really want 140 characters ruining your career?

Thank you to Chris Smith and Guardian Careers – Click here and here to review original articles.

Jose joined New Frontiers in 2000 working a variety of roles from recruitment consultant to in-house recruiter and staff trainer and now General Manager. Jose has a wealth of travel industry experience having worked in travel for 8 years prior to joining New Frontiers with roles in retail and for a tour operator.