One example of a positive use of social networking websites is gathering background information about the companies with whom you will interview.

In addition, by talking about the projects, challenges or activities a particular company contact is involved with, stronger connections with a potential employer can be made. You might also want to seek out social networking sites specific to your area of interest such as for government employees or for earth-friendly topics.

Career professionals warn job seekers that using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, may be hazardous to your career. After all, do you want your potential employer to see photos of you at last weekend’s party? While it is true that you will want to carefully review your privacy settings for sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, the professional networking site LinkedIn (that we covered in the previous section) is geared toward professional rather than personal networking, can be quite useful in your career development.

Social Networking Etiquette

When you seek and maintain professional connections via social networking sites, follow the same etiquette you would if you were networking by phone and in person. Remember that every contact is creating an impression. Online, you might tend to be less formal because you are communicating in a space that you typically share with friends. However, any time you are communicating with a potential employer, you want to maintain your professionalism. Just as you would not let your guard down if you were having dinner with a potential employer, you must maintain a positive and professional approach when conversing with networking contacts online. Ask good questions, pay attention to the answers and be polite—this includes sending at least a brief thank-you note anytime someone gives you advice or assistance.

Identity - Public or Private?

Identity and affiliations are the second area where social networking and privacy issues may affect your job search and employment prospects. Historically, because this information could be used by biased employers to discriminate, job searchers have fought for increased protection from being asked questions about their identity, including religious affiliation and sexual orientation. Via social networking sites, employers can now find information that they are not allowed to ask you.

Just as you consider whether or not to include information on your resume that would reveal religious and political affiliations or sexual orientation, you must consider whether you want this information to be publically available via social networking sites. There are two strategies to consider. One approach is that if you wish to only work for an employer with whom you can be openly religious, political, etc. then making that information available on your web page will screen out discriminating employers and make it more likely that you will land with an employer open to your identity and expression.

A second approach is to maintain your privacy. Investigate potential employers thoroughly and pay special attention at site visits to evaluate whether the company would be welcoming. This strategy is based on two perspectives shared by many career professionals. First, as a job searcher, you want to present only your relevant skills and experience throughout the job search; all other information is irrelevant. Second, if you provide information about your identity and affiliations, you may be discriminated against by one person in the process even though the company overall is a good match.

Strategies for Safe and Strategic Social Media Networking

  • Be aware of what other people can see on your page. Many recruiters are now using these sites.
  • Determine access intentionally. Some career counselors advocate deactivating your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages while job searching.
  • Set a standard. If anything appears on your page that you wouldn’t want an interviewer to see, remove the offending content.