Yes, plenty of hiring managers are screening for land mines on job candidates' social media profiles. But a recent survey indicates that spotting red flags is not the prime reason recruiters go trolling through the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Here's what Internet job search site CareerBuilder found tops the list of what potential employers are looking for:
-- Do you conduct yourself professionally?
-- Do you seem like a good fit with company culture?
-- What more can they learn about your qualifications?
That's according to a study of more than 2,300 hiring managers and human resources professionals responding to a February survey for CareerBuilder. Of them, 37 percent said they research candidates on social networking sites.
So, for the information you keep public, you are wise to "tailor the message to your advantage," said Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder's vice president of human resources.
With that in mind, here are five tips for positioning yourself strategically, offered by Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, at the school's Social Media One-Night Stand session in late May, 2012. Known on Twitter as @sree, he's also a blogger for CNET News.
1. Make good use of your Twitter bio.
This is a great place to show people how succinct -- in 160 characters -- you can be in sharing who you are, your affiliations, the subjects you tweet on most frequently.
Go ahead, too, and provide links to sites where potential employers can learn more about you, such as your blog; LinkedIn profile; or About.me page, which, like Flavors.me, lets you set up a one-page website that can link to a number of your social media sites.
Sreenivasan says to make your bio "blue," referring to the color of links, hashtags, other Twitter handles that people can click to get that fuller picture.
Your bio isn't a static thing, he says. Revisit and update it every few months, asking each time if it reflects "the best of you."
2. Curate your own tweets
How useful is it for recruiters to find at the top of your profile page a long list of your tweets saying, "thanks for the RT," "great to see you," "me too"?
Not very, says Sreenivasan, who says recruiters may spend all of 15 to 30 seconds looking for the real gems. Why not just delete those chatty but content-empty comments, so the good stuff shows up sooner, he says.
(An FYI: You're not deleting them from Twitter, just pruning them from your profile page, as they've already been "published" to the feeds of those who follow you, and are even headed to the Library of Congress where Twitter is donating its digital archive of public tweets.)
3. What do your "likes" say about you?
Your Facebook likes and favorites -- books, music, movies, television shows, people you admire -- all help to define you. Through them "you announce to the world what's important to you," Sreenivasan says.
In your earlier days on Facebook, you may have liked certain people, places, things as a lark or a favor to others. Or, perhaps included your now out-of-date website or contact info.
Sreenivasan suggests logging off the site, searching for yourself online and seeing your Facebook presence as an employer would.
4. Add polish to your LinkedIn profile.
Include a professional photo; customize your LinkedIn URL to include your first and last name, if available; include that URL in your email signature; get your profile to 100 percent complete, which Sreenivasan says "is a good rule in life" as well.
And, when you invite a person to connect, reintroduce yourself and forgo LinkedIn's canned invitation language, he says. What that's really saying is, "I couldn't take the 10 seconds to personalize this."
5. Be findable.
If recruiters like what they see, make it easy for them to contact you, he says, by including your email address in your Twitter bio and LinkedIn profile.