I spoke to several groups of professionals the past week to discuss job hunting tips in international development. After one of the talks, a participant (who wished to remain anonymous) sent me a question about how to manage their online presence to help — or at least not hamper — their job search.
Her question was as follows:
I heard that recruiters will often Google candidates to see what they can find on the Web, and often look at sites like Facebook and Twitter to determine whether to interview or hire someone. Is this true? What if they Google me and see something that eliminates me from being hired without me even knowing? Should I use sites like this to help me find jobs or is it a waste of time?
Most recruiters in global development still rely heavily on traditional forms of recruitment: posting on job boards, networking, seeking referrals, and searching places like Devex. More and more recruiters are starting to get social and either publicizing their jobs — or even seeking out candidates — on social media channels.
Engaging on social media requires a lot of time and effort — and in my opinion, is not crucial to landing a job in international development (at the end of the day, it’s having the right skills and expertise). But it can help to get you noticed, establish yourself as a thought leader in your space and engage with people who can broaden your network. And while not all recruiters I know do, many admit to looking up candidates on the Internet to see what comes up — and making hiring decisions accordingly.
Here are a few tips for managing your online presence:
Keep your personal and professional social media channels separate.
Facebook is a great tool for connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures of your new baby or latest vacation to Fiji. Or to share that hilarious BuzzFeed slideshow of embarrassing engagement photos with your friends. This is all info a recruiter doesn’t need to see — nor should you want them to. On the other hand, if you constantly post updates about the latest supply chain studies for pharmaceuticals in Africa, you may just bore your friends to tears (not that it isn’t an interesting topic).
Facebook is a great social tool — and it’s been testing apps to help leverage it for recruitment — but, at the time being, I do not know many recruiters who use it to find candidates. However, they may use it to research candidates — or may stumble upon it when doing a Google search on your name — so you want to make sure you have privacy settings in place so that only your friends can see what you post and share.
Twitter, on the other hand, can be a great space to share that supply chain study and connect with others who will find it just as fascinating as you. The great thing about Twitter is you do not need someone’s permission to follow them. Follow professionals whose careers you admire, organizations who do work you are interested in and other thought leaders in your space. Engage with them by providing feedback and questions on what they share. Add to the conversation by sharing relevant content.
Contributing to conversation in LinkedIn groups is another way to engage with like-minded professionals. (Shameless plug: the Devex LinkedIn group has a lot of interesting discussions at play!) While you might not get a job this way, it can help brand you as an expert in your area among a highly relevant group of professionals. This network could help you get noticed for positions down the line.
Keep your public posts positive
If a recruiter does search your name and all that comes up is comments and posts like “I hate my job” or “My boss is a jerk,” they are unlikely to be won over. When you do want to air grievances about your professional or personal like, do not do so on public forums where it can haunt you later down the road.
Search yourself and see what comes up
Maybe it’s nothing, and really, that is OK. You don’t have to leave a footprint on the Web to be hired. But if you do find something, make sure it’s not anything that would turn off a potential employer.
Share the same name with a convicted felon or ax murdered? You don’t need to put a disclaimer on your resume, and chances are a recruiter will figure out there is more than one of you, but if you think there could be any confusion with what is and isn’t you, feel free to clear that up with the recruiter after an interview, perhaps when they ask for references.
At the end of the day, engaging on social media successfully takes a lot of time and can easily suck away hours of your day. If you are doing it just for increasing job prospects there are likely more fruitful ways to spend your time, like carefully tailoring CVs and cover letters to specific positions. But if you are interested in engaging with other professionals and getting social on its own merits, it can certainly help. Just remember to keep it professional.
Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with international NGOs, consulting firms and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.