Why Hiding Your Online Presence From Employers Can Backfire

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It's a well-known fact that today's hiring managers and employers are interested in the social media presences of their prospective and current employees. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 51 percent of employers who research job candidates on social media say they've found content that's caused them not to hire the candidate.

This may seem like enough reason to lock down your online profiles to ensure that your personal social media sites don't affect your career options. However, Joseph Terach, founder and CEO of resume-writing firm Resume Deli, says, "Your social media profiles should be seen as an opportunity to shine – not a minefield."

But why would you invest the time in maintaining visibility to employers? When you have a viewable social media profile that's maintained well and kept at an at least mildly professional level, you are able to show hiring managers and employers that:

You have good judgment
This is the main reason that job seekers and workers keep their profiles on lockdown. Everybody's opinion of what makes for good judgment varies, but you can sense what's OK to say online and what shouldn't be said. The key is to learn the difference and also tune in to what's appropriate to say and when.

"We've watched politicians, famous actors and musicians, and even friends of ours share information and opinions that they wish they could pull back from the 'Inter-webs,'" Terach says. "Reputation-damaging stuff. Toeing the line between offering your readers smart, meaningful commentary and being inappropriate is tough. It takes savviness and excellent judgment, not to mention a strong ability to communicate. If done correctly, you can really set yourself apart from the pack. Whenever you're posting, consider that your future employer will be reading what you write ... and keep that in mind whenever you're putting anything – words, images, video – online."

You can write
If you avoid text-message spelling (e.g., "u r my fav person") and instead opt for funny, clever insight and jokes, you may have the opportunity to show potential employers that you can write and communicate well. Also look for how you can best showcase your talents and abilities through communication channels. "Your resume and cover letter can show off your written communication skills, but not nearly as effectively as can your LinkedIn profile summary and Facebook posts," Terach says. "Think of these as portfolio pieces that your future employers will evaluate for both content and tone."

You have a personality
According to the recent CareerBuilder survey, plenty of potential employers are finding reasons on social media not to hire you. The logical move, then, is to take away your social media visibility, right? "Here's a big misconception on the part of job seekers: Having and showing your personality on social media is not a problem in and of itself," Terach says. "You can be direct, opinionated and even a little brash. What you want to avoid is the extreme cases of these, i.e., don't be unreasonable, offensive and/or closed-minded. Again, being able to toe that line is the difference between sharing content that affects readers' opinions and thoughts, and just 'mouthing off' on social media."

You are social-media savvy
While you may be using social media to interact with your friends and those you find interesting and entertaining, you'll be more likely to impress potential employers if you're an influential social media user or are a community insider. "Obviously, if you can amass a steadily growing audience/followers and get important people, i.e. thought leaders in your industry, to comment on your posts, you understand social media and how it works," Terach says. "This is a huge skill set for anyone in sales, marketing, business development and a range of other fields."

A social media presence doesn't have to be a deterrent to employment. In fact, it can even help in many cases. When your social media presence is invisible to employers, you miss out on a lot of great opportunities to showcase yourself as a valuable and skilled employee. The key is to finding the right balance and voice online and also a company whose culture matches your online personality.

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