Feb 8, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

A whopping 70 percent of employers use social networking sites to vet job candidates, according to CareerBuilder. It’s also becoming a go-to recruitment tool. Says CareerBuilder chief human resources officer Rosemary Haefner, “Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter. And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”

The takeaway for job hunters? Social media may be invaluable when it comes to positioning yourself for success on the job market. Wondering where to get started? Read on for a roundup of four tips aimed at helping you polish your social media profile to perfection.

1. Don’t hide.

Many people assume the best way to avoid social media mistakes is to become a social media ghost. However, having no profile at all may be just as detrimental. Why? Because research indicate that the majority of employers are less likely to follow up with a candidate who lacks a social media presence. Not only that, but not having a social media presence also means that recruiters can’t find you. So while a negative social media profile can certainly be harmful to your job search, a positive, proactive profile can be an amazing tool for opening yourself to new opportunities.

2. Know what’s out there.

How can you employer-proof your social media presence if you don’t know what’s out there? The best place to begin when it comes to understanding and optimizing your social media presence is to conduct a “pre-mortem”.

Recommends the American Marketing Association (AMA), “Peruse your online profiles. Google yourself to see what comes up. Does it present you in the best light and make a strong argument for why you are the right candidate for the role? Is there anything that might cause a future employer to screen out your application? If so, fix the problem, or scrap that channel as part of your job search.”

Things to watch for when evaluating your social media pages include the following: Is your profile photo presentable?  Is there a clear link to your contact information? Are your skills and achievements highlighted? Do you have memberships in career-relevant groups?  Paying attention to these factors can help you cultivate a professional presence. Conversely, a profile photo of a cute kitten and memberships in all pet-lovers groups may end up representing you as more crazy cat lady than compelling candidate. 

3. Have a LinkedIn profile -- and update it often.

All social media channels aren’t created equal. And when it comes to job-hunting, LinkedIn reigns supreme. FlexJobs senior career specialist Brie Reynolds told Business News Daily, “When a recruiter searches an applicant's name to learn more about them, it's actually a red flag nowadays if someone isn't found to be active online. LinkedIn is the bare minimum a job seeker should be using to help show employers that they are technologically savvy and understand the basics on digital communication."  

But it’s not enough to merely have a LinkedIn profile. You must also update it often. Continues Reynolds, “Hiring managers may look to your LinkedIn profile to learn more about you," said Reynolds. "If it doesn't match your resume with your most up-to-date jobs, projects and skills, they may be confused. It may send the message that you're not taking enough care with your job search or professional image…"If you're interested in new opportunities, even in the least, keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date so you'll be findable when a recruiter starts searching.”

4. Show off your skills.

Social media isn’t just a way to connect with employers and recruiters. It also has the potential to speak directly to your skills and talents in an increasingly social marketplace.The majority of organizations today need smart strategies for social engagement. By demonstrating your adeptness with your own social media presence, you’re also demonstrating your capacity to contribute to the business in a meaningful way -- regardless of your field of job title.  

According to media monitoring leader Meltwater, “Social media isn’t a siloed effort that the marketing and communications team owns, every department affects or is affected by social media. In the near future, regardless of job title, you’ll need to adapt to the social sphere to thrive in business.”  For example, establishing a Twitter account which demonstrates your industry knowledge as well as your ability to compelling use this popular communications medium can make double the impression on prospective employers.

While successfully navigating the world of social media can be tricky territory for job hunters, it’s ultimately effort well spent given its potential to hook you up with a job and contacts. Which brings us to one final rule of thumb to keep in mind while moving forward with your social media strategy. While social media may comprise a variety of separate elements, together they serve a larger purpose:  Building your comprehensive brand. In other words, if a photo, post, comment, Tweet or share doesn’t support and add value to your personal brand, does it really belong on your social media page? 

Learn more about studying social media.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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