Job Seeker’s Guide to Social Media Background Checks

Published: May 31, 2024

 Career Readiness       Job Search       
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During the hiring process, your work experience and education will be under review by potential employers. In addition to this, you’ll have to get through interviews and other interactions with the hiring manager. In many cases, potential employers will also review a candidate’s social media profiles to determine whether they’d be a good fit for a role. Here’s what you need to know about social media background checks.

What is a Social Media Background Check?

Potential employers can get a great idea of what a candidate is really like by checking out their social media presence. As such, employers will often run social media background checks on candidates during the hiring process. A social media background check includes a review of a candidate’s Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn profiles where a potential employer will look at posts, comments, likes, and more.

Social media background checks allow potential employers to gain insight into a candidate’s personality, social behavior, values, and other traits such as their ability to communicate and their attention to detail. Of course, a candidate might decide to simply set all their social media profiles to private, but it’s important to remember that depending on the employer, this may suggest that the candidate is hiding something. At the very least, maintain a public LinkedIn profile so you have some form of an online presence. The key here is to be yourself, but take care not to involve yourself in any unnecessary drama or negative interactions.

Things to Watch Out For

Before embarking on a job search, spend some time reviewing your social media presence. This includes your profile, comments you’ve made, posts you’ve interacted with, and pages and individuals you follow. The most obvious thing to watch out for is content that is discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate. This might include content that is vulgar or that involves illegal or questionable activities, or content that can be deemed as racist or sexist.

Another red flag that potential employers look for is social media content that paints previous employers in a negative light. Depending on the hiring manager, this could be as simple as a post in which someone is venting about a previous boss or coworker, so be careful when discussing previous employers on social media. A good rule of thumb is if you don’t have anything positive to share, avoid posting anything at all.

Along with bad-mouthing previous employers, be on the lookout for social media content that displays a pattern of negativity. This might include excessive complaining about any number of topics, or posts that make you seem consistently unhappy or angry. Potential employers may also look for spelling or grammar mistakes in a candidate’s posts, so do your best to demonstrate strong communication skills in your social media interactions.

What Employers Are Looking For

Potential employers understand that a candidate’s social media profiles are primarily used for keeping in touch with friends and family, or for sharing life updates or other types of content; however, they also know that social media can be a very powerful networking tool. By joining groups and following pages that align with your role and your professional goals, you’ll be demonstrating your drive to succeed—just remember to interact with those groups and pages regularly.

Employers are looking for candidates who have a positive outlook, so do your best to share content that’s educational and that is relevant to your interests and professional goals. You can take it a step further by providing words of encouragement in your interactions with others, or by asking industry leaders for their advice on any number of topics. Along with this, don’t be afraid to share professional achievements, events, or workshops you’ve attended, as it will show potential employers your commitment to your personal and professional growth.

Thought leadership is another great way to demonstrate your dedication to your craft. By posting articles, projects you’ve worked on, or discussions about your role, you’ll be demonstrating your continued interest in your industry, as well as your ability to keep up with trends. Potential employers like to see candidates who can self-motivate, and who are dedicated to their own professional development, and if you can establish yourself as a thought leader, you’ll have a nice advantage during the hiring process.

Depending on your role, you may also use social media platforms such as Instagram or Pinterest to display your portfolio. Graphic designers, copywriters, video editors, and photographers can showcase projects they’ve worked on in order to attract potential employers or freelance opportunities, and they can direct potential employers to their social media profiles in the event examples are required during the hiring process.

When it comes to your social media presence, listen to your own intuition. If something feels off about content you’re sharing or about someone you’re following, you’re probably on to something. Try seeing your social media presence from the perspective of a potential employer—do your posts, interactions, and overall attitude indicate that you’d be a great fit for the role? If not, take some time to tweak your social media profiles before applying for any jobs.