Students applying to jobs should think about their social media presence, according to study

Meara Isenberg

While college students may use social media to share their opinions and experiences with friends, it is now more likely their posts will be viewed by a potential employer as well.

According to a 2017 study by the online employment company CareerBuilder, 70 percent of employers are weighing tweets, posts and “likes” in their decision-making process. The number has increased from 60 percent in 2016, and 11 percent in 2006.

“Employers are going to look you up,” said Ladan Hayes, a CareerBuilder career advisor. “You can’t be naive about it because the data is there backing it up. It’s your job to be presenting yourself in the way you want to be presented.”

David Harrison, a business management professor, said social media can be helpful for students looking for jobs through affiliations with people on platforms such as LinkedIn, which can expose a student to more job opportunities. However, Harrison said with more recreational platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, the risk of a negative impression on a potential employer is high.

“Far and away the biggest effect of social media presence on the likeliness of getting a job is a negative one,” Harrison said. “What you have on social media will not be a positive part of your portfolio, other than a headshot of you in a nice, sharp looking suit and some humble bragging about what you were able to do in a prior job.”

Harrison said companies often use technology to do background searches on potential employees, and some even have software to search for “buzz words” in an applicant’s social media that may be inappropriate or offensive.

Advertising professor Angeline Close Scheinbaum said employers could get the wrong idea about who an applicant is based off their digital footprint.

“You’re leaving this digital footprint, posting at the time, not thinking it through, but years later this can come down and it takes on a new meaning,” said Scheinbaum, the author of a book called “The Dark Side of Social Media.” “Absolutely it can cost people job interviews or jobs themselves.”

Nutrition freshman Hyunseo Ju said she often sees things her peers post on social media she considers unprofessional, and she understands why companies would use those posts in their
decision-making process.

“If I was in their position, I would do the same thing because it’s obviously available to you — it’s not private or anything,” Ju said. “I would try to find out as many resources as I could about them to see if they are ready for the position.”

With public posts being accessible to anyone, Scheinbaum said a reason people may not weigh social media as a factor in their ability to get hired is that they will never know if their tweets were the reason they did not get a job or interview.

“Even if you do hear back, you get a very generic letter that says, ‘Thank you for your interest in this position, however, this position has now been filled,’ but they don’t tell you why,” Scheinbaum said. “Think about all the potential opportunities that people miss out on because of their social media presence, but they’ll never know.”