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Avatar by Jan Hendrik von Ahlen
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How Your Social Media Presence Can Affect Your Employability

Does your social footprint help - or hinder - your employability?

Here’s a short but not sweet story about a guy who had a surprisingly swift end to his new job.

Let’s call our protagonist Evan.

With a brilliant resume, a stellar interview performance, and glowing references, Evan seemed the perfect fit. He was therefore hired as a trainer for an international team of engineers in a global organisation. His job was to mentor and coach colleagues from around the globe, all collaborating in English on a significant project.

Here comes the ‘however’…

On the Friday afternoon of his first week, Evan was called into a meeting with his boss and the HR Manager. To his shock, his employment was terminated without notice.

The reason? His social media activity.

HR had unfortunately missed a background check step before extending the job offer: reviewing the candidate’s social media profiles. When someone finally checked to tick off that box, they spotted a fresh Facebook post about his new team, riddled with racist terms. A deeper dive into his social media history revealed a pattern of racist memes and comments spanning several years.

So - clearly not someone suitable for training a multicultural team.

This incident underscores a very important point: as a professional, your online presence speaks volumes about you. Even if your posts aren’t explicitly offensive, potential employers can and do form opinions based on your social footprint—both positive and negative.

The lessons to be learned? First, make your personal social media accounts private. You never know who is looking (and with 70% or more of prospective employers admitting to doing social background checks, this likely includes them!). Second, be mindful of what you post online. Always think twice before sharing.

Now, back to the big question: what does your social media presence say about you?

Let’s start with the positives.

Positive Aspects of Your Social Media Footprint

#1 It can demonstrate that you’re a legitimate, serious professional

It’s an unfortunate truth that there are many fake or heavily skewed social media profiles out there. On the other hand, social media is a great way to broadcast your professional credibility by curating a well-rounded and authentic online presence. How? Start by optimizing your LinkedIn profile with a professional photo, a compelling headline, and detailed experiences that meaningfully highlight your skills and accomplishments. Poorly written or minimal details can raise more questions than answers. On personal social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, post text and visual content that align with your resume narrative and professional brand. For example, if you value empathy and social responsibility, then content that supports local charities or your volunteerism activities will demonstrate this.

#2 Engage in positive promotion

This one applies more to LinkedIn, but depending on context, it may also be relevant for other platforms. To craft a positive and knowledgeable presence, join and participate in pages and groups related to your field (there are literally hundreds on LinkedIn alone). Leave constructive comments on the posts of peers, and routinely share articles and other content that align with your values. Use LinkedIn to showcase your professional accomplishments, skills, and recommendations (more on the latter below). On platforms like X (Twitter), Facebook, and Instagram, also post thought leadership pieces, insights from conferences or webinars, and behind-the-scenes looks at events you’ve attended. Combined, this all contributes to the impression of you as an engaged, values-driven, and proactive professional.

#3 Do others recommend you?

Your social media presence looks great. You’ve polished all your profiles so they reflect a positive impression of you professional and personally. That’s all well and good. But frankly, this can sometimes be faked. That’s why potential clients and employers often look for one more sign that you’re a legitimate, appealing person to work with. Recommendations on platforms like LinkedIn serve as powerful testimonials to your professional skills and character. As these are generally from colleagues, supervisors, and clients, these provide credible, third-party validation of your abilities and work ethic. If you do outside projects or volunteerism, any reviews on your social channels can offer potential employers insights into how you’re perceived by those you’ve worked with. Encourage LinkedIn recommendations by leaving a recommendation on LinkedIn for others or requesting one via the recommendation feature. When completing external projects or activities, it’s totally acceptable to reach out and ask for a testimonial or profile review.

Negative Aspects of Your Social Media Footprint

#1 Contentious, inappropriate, or offensive content

This is a big (and obvious) one. As the opening anecdote illustrates, what you might think is absolutely hilarious, others may find not so much. Not only that: you absolutely never know who’s looking at your profile. Even if you have it set to the highest privacy level and only your closest contacts can see what you’re posting, someone can still screenshot, film, share, snip, snap… you get the picture. Which could help or hinder you when it comes to character references, job referrals, willingness to introduce you professionally to others, and so on. Again (you’re going to hear this a lot): think twice and thrice about anything you post online.

#2 Evidence of a poor culture fit

Your content strongly influences the viewer’s opinion of your personal and professional identity. Especially when they don’t know you that well or haven’t met you personally. Your content will 100% be used to understand whether or not you’d fit that organization’s culture. For example, if you’re applying for a job at a company where 9-5 in the office is normal and people tend to book vacations months in advance, your posts about spontaneous days off, Friday Wine Days, and liking articles about remote working might not give them a great sense of fit.

#3 Revealing a tendency to indiscretion

Do you moan about your clients or colleagues on social media? Do you like and share articles about toxic bosses? Do you leave overly-critical or judgemental comments under other people’s posts? If that sounds like you, unfortunately, the prognosis is poor: you may have a serious condition called ‘foot-in-mouth-itis’. Which is not attractive to potential employers. Even if you’re commenting on an obscure post that you think no one will ever find out about – don’t assume. Think carefully about the perception of anything you post that puts others in a bad light, or that criticises without being constructive. If you’re willing to do it publicly, they’ll assume you’d be willing to do so in other contexts, too. Which might lead to a hard ‘no’ for that job offer.

Tips to Manage Your Social Footprint

As we’ve seen, your social media presence has an incredibly powerful impact on your job search prospects and overall professional image. That’s why it’s essential to manage it, both strategically and proactively. Thankfully, it’s not that hard to do.

Here are some easy tips to help you cultivate a more robust social media footprint:

Review your social media profiles regularly Go over your social media profiles at least once a year and remove any content that might be deemed inappropriate or unprofessional. This includes old posts, photos, comments, and likes that touch upon contentious or outdated opinions.

Set personal profiles to private if you want to maintain a space separate from your professional life This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be careful about what you post: someone in your personal network could also have a deciding influence on your career through recommendations or references.

Don’t be shy about highlighting your key achievements and skills No, that doesn’t include daily inspiration posts or karma-generating content about how fabulous you are. Potential employers don’t just want to know what you were hired to do in previous jobs – they want to know how you, as an individual, made a personal impact. That’s why it makes sense to share thoughtful and relevant highlights on your personal and professional social profiles. As long as you come across as modestly proud (vs over-confidently boasting, that is), making occasional mention of achievements or new skills gained will always be viewed positively by your audience and future employers.

Be mindful of your interactions Maintain a respectful and professional tone in all your online interactions. Avoid engaging in non-constructive arguments or posting controversial content. Think hard before sharing your opinions, especially on sensitive topics, to ensure they align with the professional image you want to project.

Stay updated with privacy settings Regularly review the privacy settings on your social media accounts to control who can see your posts and personal information. Be aware of changes in privacy policies and adjust your settings accordingly to protect your social media footprint.


Your social presence is an extraordinary influential tool that can either boost or hinder your career. By understanding the impact of what you post, and taking steps to manage your profiles accordingly, you can present yourself as a highly appealing candidate to potential employers.

Focus on highlighting your professionalism, expertise, values, work ethic, and commitment to continuous learning, while avoiding behaviors that could negatively affect your reputation.

Your online presence almost literally speaks louder than words - make sure it reflects a professional narrative you’re proud of!

Key takeaways:

  • Over 70% of potential employers will scrutinize your social media for insights into your character and suitability for a role
  • Maintain a polished and professional presence across all platforms to present a legitimate, consistent brand
  • Participate constructively in industry groups, share relevant accomplishments and content, and demonstrate thought leadership to further enhance your credibility
  • Secure reviews and recommendations from other professionals to validate your skills, values, and work ethic
  • Refrain from posting contentious, offensive, or unprofessional material – it can literally cost you job opportunities
  • Avoid airing grievances about clients or colleagues – who wants to work with someone who complains about their professional associates?
  • Ensure your social media reflects values and behaviors that align with any potential employer’s culture
  • Review and clean up your profiles periodically, removing any questionable content
  • Stay updated on privacy settings to control who can see your posts and information

For more insights, tips and strategies related to this topic, be sure to read our other articles: 7 Ways to Build Your Professional Brand & Stand Out to Employers & What is Culture Fit & Why It Matters in Your Job Search

Related questions

How can my social media presence impact my job search?

Your social media presence can significantly impact your job search, as potential employers often review profiles to assess your professionalism and suitability for their company culture. Positive and relevant content can enhance your appeal, while negative or inappropriate posts can deter employers.

What steps can I take to clean up my social media profiles for job applications?

To clean up your social media profiles, review and delete any inappropriate or unprofessional content. Update privacy settings to control who can see your posts, and ensure your profiles reflect a professional image. Regularly monitoring and curating your content helps maintain a positive online presence.

Why do employers check social media profiles during the hiring process?

Employers check social media profiles to gain insights into a candidate’s personality, professionalism, and cultural fit. Social media can reveal aspects not evident from resumes or interviews, such as communication skills, interests, and potential red flags that might impact their hiring decision.

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