Did HR just like my photo?

Let’s be honest we have all done it or at least thought about it…is my company creeping on my social media accounts? Is this recruiter going to look me up on Facebook after this interview?

Image result for social media and job seekers funny

These are the typical thoughts going through a professional’s mind living in the social media obsessed age. I can only guess that if you’ve had the above thought, you’ve combated it with changing your profile to just or first and middle name, or shortening that last name to just the first three or four letters, because that will hide those photos of you and your friends from the last spring break trip. I mean it’s true, no one is going to want to hire you if you’re seen holding that red solo cup right?

In a 2018 Survey by Career Builder it was sited the 70% of employers use social networking sites to check up on candidates during the hiring process. This survey included 1000+ firms in the private sector. For context Career Builder is a Chicago based human capital solutions company and is an affiliate of Apollo Global Management. While they are not quite the Indeed of job seekers, they have some skin in the game.

If you’re like me then 70% may be a little bit of shocking statistic, but what are these employers really looking into? The survey didn’t explicitly state what falls in the category of “social networking,” as this could simply just be LinkedIn. Having been a recruiter myself I can tell you, yes it’s true I have looked into candidates LinkedIn profiles, but never headed over to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to explore my suspicions. Apparently for some employers it isn’t unheard of dig a little deeper into your data trail of likes and tweets about your first world problems.

Social networking has become a growing norm over the last decade and we have seen the rapid adoption rate increase year over year. Career centers across the country are no longer triple checking that resume for you, but instead pushing you to make sure that LinkedIn is updated. Now more than ever having have the online professional profile buttoned up is just as important as making sure that Facebook default has your shirt fully buttoned up.

As an HR professional I think there are certain boundaries that employer should never cross without valid and just reason. Social media has introduced many new positive changes in the workplace, but has also been the reason for many new company policies. In my opinion an online profile only introduces a new level of biases into the recruiting picture for a company. Opening the Pandora’s Box that is a person’s personal social media doesn’t quite tell the story of who they are professionally. In our current society a human has so many different personas, there is the professional career driven LinkedIn user, the amateur foodie on Insta, the family oriented and fun loving Facebook profile, and the ranting and opinioned Twitter user.  Now just imagine this is one person, how many ways can this person come across with a simple scroll through their profile? For some industries and professions, yes a detailed social media deep dive may be needed, but not all.  On the flip side of this equation there is this little takeaway about social media “47 percent of hiring managers said the absence of one has actually made them back off interest in a job candidate.” So like most things we were once told were bad for us, everything is good in moderation.

Building a professional brand on the internet has become easier than ever with tools such as LinkedIn. In a matter of minutes you can release your resume to millions of hiring managers, but even professional network can get a little unprofessional. In the past few years I have noticed my Facebook newsfeed and my LinkedIn feed to be somewhat similar. I wasn’t the only user to notice, after I started to see this post trending:

A resent Forbes article offered up some great advice what do post on social media. They called it using the PrOPer meathod:

  • Professional on LinkedIn
  • Opinionated on Twitter
  • Personal on Facebook

This goes to show that we should all be cautious of what we post online, or at least monitor what we are posting as a job seeker. There is a constant debate of whether or not social media is ruining the reputations of young professionals? You are responsible for building your brand on the internet, how others interpret what you put out there is not so much in your control, so think before you post. Social media has provided us with a powerful tool to connect with society and has created interesting and meaningful dialogue, but it has also created new ways that disrupt society. I believe this all goes back to the core of it, you control your identity, online you have to be empowered to be your own editor.  

Building your online brand is a full time job all on its own…


  1. Great blog! I enjoyed the last part about the Forbes article and “proper” use of each social media platform. I have also noticed the recent trend of LinkedIn becoming more social and less professional. It is interesting the shift and I see this as an issue if LinkedIn is to be a valuable asset in acquiring talent. As we are now taught as undergrads, the use of social media is completely tied to our personal brand. Just as companies are cautious about what they post, we should be concerned with our own personal marketing.

  2. dilillomelissa · ·

    Great topic! I could relate to everything you stated, from changing my Facebook name to my first and middle name during a period in college, to trying to find the balance between having social media and knowing what was appropriate to post. I had to think a lot harder about what appropriate meant during my college years. My friends and I would post hundreds of pictures weekly to Facebook, not even giving it a second thought. After being in the professional world for a few years and now into grad school, I feel there are more forms of social media for me to use and I have a better idea of what each is for. I had never heard of the PrOPer method before, but I think it’s a great way to keep your social media strategies straight. My mom called me the other evening and told me how great all the food on my food Instagram was looking and she doesn’t even have an Instagram. Just shows that if my mom could figure it out, a recruiter sure can.

  3. I loved the PrOPer method and the idea of building your own brand. I find LinkedIn an interesting combination of social media and networking platform. The line isn’t quite clear what is defined and what isn’t. The presence of social media now forces employees to be held accountable for their actions both in and outside of the office. There are now rules one must abide to on this platform. I recently read a Forbes article called “10 mistakes that are killing your LinkedIn Profile.” Katie Gold and I are co-TAs for a Career Accelerator course. Today, we taught almost an entire class on LinkedIn and networking. Katie made a great analogy when explaining levels of connections to our class of freshman. She said Facebook friends are equivalent to a 1st level connection on LinkedIn, a 2nd connection is like having mutual friends on Facebook, and a 3rd connection is someone you have no friends with. While what is posted on these platforms is supposed to be different, the structures are very similar and it often leads to blurred lines where LinkedIn integrity can be diminished. It is now a requirement to have a LinkedIn profile with at least 50 connections pass the career accelerator class.

  4. I will never forget during high school when all of the seniors would change their names on facebook so that colleges wouldn’t find them. We were all so worried that we would not get into college because of some pictures and posts, so it is interesting to know that HR does not typically dig that deep into our social media pages. I really liked the simplicity of the PrOPer method because it easily breaks down what each platform should be used for. Lately I have seen some LinkedIn posts that maybe should be on Facebook instead, so I wonder how this platform will evolve over the years. Really great post and makes me feel pretty relieved about what exactly HR cares about!

  5. One thing that your post got me thinking about was social media as a way for a hiring manager to check how you’d match with the “cultural fit” of a company. After all, this personal brand that we’ve all built and broadcasted to our friends and followers on social media is one that people are going to have to like at any company you work at. When I started this article, my thought was that hiring managers use social media as a reason not to hire you. But after reading between the lines here I’m starting to think that social media could potentially serve to boost your candidacy and show employers that you’d be a fun personality to have around the office (and maybe even that you’d be someone who’d be fun to hang out with after work as well). Obviously this is all within reason and you have to be smart about what could be perceived as just plain irresponsible/unattractive to a potential boss. And you’re right, keep the social/cute stuff off LinkedIn – it’s annoying!

  6. cgriffith418 · ·

    Love reading about this from the perspective of an actual HR professional, because I feel like part of the problem is all of rumors that go around. I either hear “EVERYBODY LOOKS AT EVERYTHING” or “Oh, don’t be silly, they don’t look at anything!,” which makes it hard to know how much I should actually worry about this. I think its especially tough as a college student because we are, by definition, in a transition phase of life, so naturally our social media will reflect that. Our LinkedIn might say we are “a passionate CSOM student aiming for careers in finance,” while our Instagram says “Nights we’ll never remember with friends we’ll never forget!” From our perspective, the fact that we’re partying in the Mods on Saturday doesn’t mean we’re not working hard Monday-Friday, but its completely understandable that seeing that difference would be unattractive to a potential employer. 10-20 years ago, it was probably harder for employers to see the different sides of person, so in some ways it feels unfair that our lives are on display to potential employers just because we grew up on social media, but at the same time, we put our lives on display by choice! Basically, I think its a sort of complicated privacy issue, and as more and more generations grow up social media-native, maybe we’ll start to find a better balance. I definitely keep LinkedIn 100% professional, and just to be safe, I don’t put anything on Instagram that I wouldn’t want my mom to see (because she does follow me!). But my mom is probably a little more understanding than most employers…

  7. I loved the idea of “PrOPer” as I’d never heard of it before but think it does a great job of structuring which platforms we use for the different sides of ourselves. I understand the prospect of employers wanting to make sure they’re not hiring offensive people with little concern with their words and what they post, but I think things like Kevin Hart’s old homophobic tweets should be gauged differently than a picture of someone sharing a drink with friends. I think social media should be for sharing our lives and who we are and having to censor that for employers completely takes away that agency and freedom. I knew people in high school already worried about what was on their facebook for getting a job in the future. This always shocked me because we were so young, we were supposed to be stupid, to some degree, and using Facebook for fun. Overall, unless there is concern about a certain candidate and further research is necessary employers should stick to professional avenues of “cyberstalking”.

  8. taylorfq6 · ·

    I totally agree that we all need to be cognizant of what we post on social media, and I try to live by the rule “don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say or do in person.” With that being said, the vast majority of us do have posts that may not be the most professional, but are things we don’t mind sharing with 500 of our closest friends. I understand the attraction to searching through social media profiles to gain a better understanding of the type of a person a candidate is, but it also seems to infringe on a work/life boundary. Many people (myself included) conduct themselves in a slightly different, professional manner while at work that isn’t exactly the same as when we are hanging out with our friends. To me, social media is more about my social life, and the things I want to share with friends, not my boss. All being said, I enjoyed reading about the “PrOper” method and think we all need to be careful with what we choose to present online.

  9. kgcorrigan · ·

    This was a great post to read, especially told from the perspective of an HR professional! Building an online personal brand is something that has been drilled into my head from the first time I used my college’s career center and continues to be brought up at various panel events I’ve attended since graduating, so this is such a relevant conversation for both students and professionals. I can imagine how a scan of someone’s online profile(s) might introduce a new bias into the recruiting process, and I’m curious at what stage of the hiring process that would occur. Whether positive or negative, would that impact your decision of who to bring in for an interview, or does it serve as a reference when you’re thinking about making an offer? Regardless, I do think it’s important to be careful about what you put out into the social media world and the PrOPer method is a great acronym for remembering best practices!

  10. Like Luiza said, I remember when everyone changed their Facebook names to avoid being found by colleges. I was always told to be careful what I post online and to avoid posting pictures that would be deemed inappropriate because recruiters will undeniably look you up. Your blog brought up a lot of great points. I agree that an online profile only introduces a new standard of biases and that looking into a person’s personal social media doesn’t quite accurately depict who they are professionally. It would be a darn shame for a company to not consider someone based on their social media without actually getting to know them in a professional or academic standpoint. Everyone has a different persona according to the platform, as each platform serves its own purpose. That’s why we have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It’s best that we stay in our lanes and post according to the purpose of each platform. But most importantly, we have the responsibility of consciously building our own brand online.

  11. cynmzfigueroa · ·

    I think in general, my social media research on job applicants has been limited to “check out their LinkedIn” and “make sure there’s nothing inappropriate popping up within the first two Google links”. I’m currently wrapping up the hiring process for an assistant on my team and my first instinct reading this is “yes of course we google hires” but now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve done this with any of the hires I’ve done so far on my team. I guess I personally haven’t seen the need for it unless and assume that the background check will cover any red flags that weren’t caught in the interview/reference check process. I also too wonder, what’s the legality here? Doesn’t snooping on social (beyond LinkedIn) open HR up to hiring biases? I mean obviously we’re looking at someone’s judgement skills as to whether or not to post something publicly online but I guess I haven’t dived too deep into it. Good to have this Forbes article handy though!

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