• Hillary Hufford-Tucker

With Social Media, the Personal is the Professional

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are always a top conversation for resume writers and their clients. It makes sense that companies automate the process of promoting job listings on professional social media sites, but did you know that those same systems can provide the company with a summary of an applicant's personal social media?

Yes, that's right. If your resume makes it through the robot review (which I'll address in a future blog post), the system scans all of your college photos, travels, and misadventures for the recruiter. So, for the job seeker, one's personal social media is professional.

Due to the convenience for recruiters, social media and profile scans will become more commonplace in the talent search. According to a CareerBuilder study, screening candidates’ social media is at an all-time high. The survey's takeaways included:

  • 57 percent of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can't find online

  • 54 percent of employers have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media

  • Half of employers check current employees' social media profiles

  • Over a third of employers have reprimanded or fired an employee for inappropriate content

  • 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates

If your first inclination is to delete all of your social media, don't. Employers generally look for people that are both qualified and interesting. As per the survey above, employers are less likely to interview candidates they can't find online. Instead of deleting everything, think of doing a social "scrub" and realignment.

Review all of your profiles from a recruiter's perspective and be sure they shed a positive light on both your personal and professional activities. If you don't know where to begin, here are some things to get you started:

  • Update your headshot, title bar, and background photo on LinkedIn to reflect your goals

  • Change the settings on your most personal accounts to 'private'

  • Hide or remove particularly inappropriate posts (drugs, drinking, race, gender, religion, etc.)

  • Remove any negative references to former employers, institutions, or peers

  • Recheck your qualifications to ensure everything is 100 percent accurate

  • Rework your professional bio or 'About' section on LinkedIn

  • Have a trusted advisor review your profiles for typos and grammar errors

  • Deactivate old social media accounts

  • Repost job- or industry-specific news once or twice a week

  • Include handles for your professional blogs and social media on your resume and email signature

  • Reconnect with your current network and expand it within your desired company or industry

  • Sanitize the handles for social media, web links, and URLs

  • Like and engage with issues and posts in the context of your job search

  • Ask yourself if your social media image reflects your future goals

To a hiring team (or the ATS), your online persona is the amalgamation of your personal and professional social media. If it seems a gargantuan effort, know that the CareerBuilder survey also found that more than 44 percent of employers cited social networking sites as the reason they chose a candidate, including their qualifications, communications skills, and personal brand representations.

So, what does a social scrub and realignment do for you? It ensure that your personal and professional social media supports your career vision and it might just get you hired!


As a certified career coach, Hillary guides extraordinary people and their personal brands. She's a career solutionista that helps clients discover their unique worth to find new employment, pivot industries, or move toward cause-oriented work. When Hillary's not busy coaching amazing people, she rides bikes, learns about wine, cooks for friends, and travels globally with her family. Find out more and sign up for her newsletter at www.careersolutionista.com.

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