Not everyone’s on Facebook—or Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites that seem to be where all the action happens online. Even in this connected age, there are lots of valid reasons to stay off social media, ranging from privacy concerns to personal preference. But how does this choice affect your chances of getting hired?
You may have heard that employers investigate job candidates’ online profiles, and research bears this out. A 2018 CareerBuilder survey estimates 70% of employers looked up candidates on social networking sites before making a hiring decision.
This isn’t necessarily bad news for the non-social media user—if an employer takes the time to search for more info about you, then you’ve piqued their interest. And you may not need an active social media profile to convince an organization you’re the best person for the role.
When social media matters to employers
For some organizations, however, a lack of social media may be a deal breaker. Employers’ two main goals when they look at your Internet footprint, according to CareerBuilder, are:
1. To learn more about what makes you uniquely qualified. When open jobs get dozens of applications, it’s not always easy for employers to narrow down the list.
2. To confirm you have a professional, polished presence online. This doesn’t mean you need a formal headshot or resume details across social media platforms. But organizations want to know you can communicate well and your values are in line with theirs.
In other words, employers are looking for info that supports your candidacy; they’re not hunting for reasons to disqualify you.
How connected is your job?
The importance of a profile also depends on how relevant social networking is to your field. In some jobs online inactivity doesn’t matter much at all; in others, it matters more. There are some positions where social media absence might be a red flag, including:
- An executive-level role. When organizations look for a potential leader, they want someone who will represent their workplace with passion and enthusiasm, and who can communicate online with ease. They may also want a candidate to bring a strong established network of industry contacts with them, and social media is often the easiest place to make and demonstrate these contacts.
- A communications-centered role. Marketing, public relations, outreach … lots of nonprofit jobs make use of social networking channels. These roles may require social media competency from day one, and a profile shows you’re already familiar with the online networking landscape.
What if you have these skills and connections without the social profile to back them up? Talk up your skills in the resume and cover letter, and give specifics—for instance, mention the industry leaders you’ve worked with and the media platforms you’re comfortable navigating.
Building "social proof"
Even if you’re the greatest self-promoter on the job market, your perspective alone won’t always indicate what you’re like as a colleague. Employers are going online to find out what others say about you. They’re looking for social proof, or evidence backed up by trustworthy public opinion.
Recommendations on a LinkedIn profile, interactions with former coworkers or fellow students, photos of you on the job, and other clues offer "proof" you really do have the interests and competencies on your resume—and that you’ve honed them well enough for others to notice. Social proof can indicate whether you’re a cultural fit for the organization as well.
Making your case
Fortunately there are plenty of ways to build robust social proof online. While social media activity is one of the easiest methods of social proof-building, it’s far from the only one.
Create a professional website. Though potential employers and colleagues are still your audience, a website gives you much more leeway than a job application to add some personal flair. Tell your own story — write an engaging "About Me" section, link to organizations you’ve worked or volunteered for, and showcase examples of work you’ve done.
You might consider a "Testimonials" section or sidebar where you share (with their permission) positive feedback you’ve received from previous employers, teachers, or coworkers. Think of testimonials as a lighter, less time-intensive version of recommendation letters. Keep them short; remember readers’ attention spans on the Internet are pretty brief.
Share verifiable details in your job application. As you likely already know, the resumes that get results tend to have specific examples of what the candidate accomplished in past positions. When you add details a coworker or boss can confirm during a reference check (e.g. timelines, numbers, and percentages), you provide a more concrete picture of all-around success.
Get involved in online volunteer work. Volunteer gigs can keep you busy while you’re waiting for a job offer to roll in, but more importantly, virtual volunteering is a career-enhancing experience in its own right. You’ll meet new people (remotely) and maybe get a chance to be in the spotlight, since some organizations feature volunteers on their websites.
Offer to write testimonials for others. Brag about a great former coworker on their personal or workplace website, or provide them a reference if they need one. Besides just being a generous thing to do, testimonial writing helps get your own name out there.
Pro tip: If you’re worried about privacy, you can cultivate an online presence—and even create a social media profile—without publicly revealing your location, email address, or other sensitive info. Most platforms have customizable privacy settings. When in doubt about info-sharing, put your personal safety first.
Other ways to job hunt
Nurture your network on an ongoing basis. Don’t let the digital age hype fool you: relationships are just as important as they’ve ever been to job hunting. Keep in touch with old colleagues, classmates, and supervisors (through email, phone, or any medium you like) because you value and respect them, not just because you’re looking for work. Check in to see how they’re doing and where their career journey is taking them.
Networking is often about the long haul. The stronger and more trusting your relationships are, the more likely people will think of you when a position opens up, social media or no.
In the meantime, there are plenty of new people to meet. Many nonprofit events and seminars are going virtual, so keep an eye on developments in your field and mark your calendar for any remote gatherings.
University alumni groups tend to be pretty busy places for job-opportunity sharing, and websites related to your industry may have active message boards where professionals "talk shop." These spaces tend to have the same casual tone of social media; you can get to know people informally before you start chatting about work, which may make these conversations easier.
Absence from social media may make you harder to find, but it won’t take you out of the running. Employers are looking for the right person, not just the right profile, so focus on your professional growth.
Has your job search ever been affected by your online presence—or lack thereof? Head to Facebook (if you use it) to tell us what worked for you!