“Social Media is where it’s at!” Or so we are told over and over again.  Certainly the feeling is that if you aren’t using it, either as a candidate or as an employer, you’ll be left behind.  My thought as a recruiter is, regardless which side of the table you’re on,  “Be aware”.  Here’s why.

A Jobvite survey from 2013 indicates that 94% of recruiters use or plan to use social media in their recruitment efforts and 78% of recruiters have made a hire through social media. Social media is no longer an outlier in the recruiting process.

I regularly interview candidates of all ages and experience, and I am always surprised to find candidates using social media who still are unaware of the ability of everyone — specifically hiring managers — to go to the internet and do a quick search.  As a leading question, I may ask a candidate if there is anything I may find surprising  to see if they are aware of some of the gotchas readily available. Unfortunately, too many of them are oblivious to what could possibly sink them.

The old school of thought remains. First impressions are lasting ones.  Spinach in the teeth, pant leg caught in the sock, coffee stains down the front of your dress are obvious faults and easy to remedy. Photos at a bachelor/bachelorette party  or a winning hand in Las Vegas are not always recognized as damaging.  Those first impressions set the tone for what an employer thinks of you.  When you are interviewing, you don’t have the luxury of a “do over”.

Social Media is a great way of staying in contact with those who really care about you.  Your friends, family and close acquaintances already have their first impressions of you as a great person.  Here’s my word of advice to those of you not aware of the information gathered by employers that occurs prior to reaching out to you as a potential candidate;  maintain a professional profile.  Some people use pseudonyms to maintain the distance between their personal and professional lives.  If you are, good for you and be sure to stay on top of that.

True there are laws and regulations guaranteeing you “freedom of speech”.  In reality though we know the opposite is in play.  There are also companies who value culture fits; each is unique.  So your card playing hobbies may not be a great fit for that hiring manager.  And really, would you want to be passed over for an opportunity due to some silly event that happened six months ago or even 10 years ago?

So remember Aretha Franklin’s old song…”Think!”  Think about the image you want to project and whether your social media face portrays that image.  Personally, I keep my private and business life separate.  LinkedIn is my professional face and that is what you will find outside of the non-profit activities I am involved with locally.