Social Media: Will they see the “real you” or the “online you”?

Written by: Laura Pearlstein

LeaderBeing a leader on social media is extremely important especially when talking about branding yourself for potential clients and/or employers. Everyone has their own idea of
what it means to be a leader on social media, but many lack the understanding and knowledge of what it takes to be a successful leader. When it comes to looking at accomplished entrepreneurs, you can see how they leverage their brand and image to those who follow them. They target their audience in “real-time” which allows them to communicate with their audiences and generate a following.

Social Media in “real-time”

When we communicate with people online, we are focusing on their reactions in “real-time”. The feedback that we get in real-time contribute to the image that we form into our brand. As stated by Michael Kent, author of Directions in Social Media for Professionals and Scholars, “…being truly social cannot be done on a social networking site” (Kent, 2010, 646). As a result of this, the interactions that we have with people online differ from the ones we have with them in real-time. By highlighting the idea that who we are on social media may not be like who we are in real life, we come to the realization that “social media create[s] the illusion of knowing what someone is doing by seeing the posts by others on their social networking pages and reading the comments to Timetheir own posts” (Kent, 2010, 646). Often times, those who follow us have pre-determined beliefs that they know us for who we really are. In fact, almost 90% of what they make us out to be, is nothing like we actually are in person. The same goes for employers. When they look at your social media profiles, they see what you post and are able to communicate with you in “real-time”. In any case, it boils down to are you being your most real self when you are online? What I mean by that is that when you know people are watching you, you display taste performance. People may think that just because they follow you, they know every single detail about you and the type of person that you are. That is not the case however because they only know the “online you”, not the “you in real time”.

Will your Social Media account land you your dream job?

Our online selves have to match who we are in “real time”. If someone were to go on your profile today and decide whether you were going to get a job based on what you posted the other night, would they hire you? This is something that everyone needs to think about, especially high school and college students when they go to look for jobs after they graduate.

Whether you know it or not, future employers have access to everything. They can get down to the bare bones of a potential employers social media account and see everything that they have posted or deleted. Scary right? As potential employees of large corporations or students looking for a summer internship, there are many different ways that we can portray ourselves online. Employers look through everything on their future DreamJobemployees social media accounts because they want to ensure that they will be a good fit for their company. In fact, about “…. half of those employers said they didn’t offer a job candidate the position because of provocative or inappropriate photos and information
posted on his or her profile….” (Smith,
Forbes, 2013). Unfortunately, this a sad but true scenario. Many people forget that whatever they post online, stays there forever even if they think that they deleted it permanently.

Social media is crucial for helping employers get to know their potential employees beyond their resumé. You may be highly qualified for a job, but if there is something that they find about you on social media that they do not like, you most likely will not be getting the job. The world of social media plays an important role in the hiring process. There are people who are specifically hired to look through potential employees online profiles to gauge whether or not they will be qualified enough for the job, just based on their social media persona. However, while there are those who are only looking on social media to learn about their candidates beyond their resumè, only about “…45% [of future employers] want to learn more about [their candidates] qualifications” (Smith, Forbes, 2013). This small percentage indicates that many employers trust what they see on someone’s social media profile before even giving them a call back or a chance to come in for an interview.

What does your social media presence say about you?

Social media is an outlet where people are free to express themselves how they would like and share content that they feel is appropriate. From a young age, our parents continued to remind us to “be careful what we post online because once it is there, it is there for good” and boy, were they right. What is even more alarming though is that now, as we grow up, potential employers are able to see everything that we have published over the years. Remember, when you are searching for you next job, “Employers are FrontYard[already] researching us digitally 24/7/365” (Fertik, 2012). So that party you went to and were holding a solo cup in your hand, they know about it; the photo where you are completely trashed, they saw it; and that comment you wrote about a company you worked for and hated? Yes, you guessed it, they read about that too.

Unbenounced to many high school and college students, what they post online, even if they are just sharing a piece of their life with the world, can either make or break their chances at getting a job that they really wanted. We know that we cannot change what posts have been published in the past, but we do know that we can take steps to bettering our social media presence for the future. Not to fret though, not all employers will judge you based on your social media accounts; but many do. Whether you are posting online for professional or personal purposes, here are some things to keep in mind from the article 15 Easy Tips for Using Social Media Responsibly by Chris Winters:

  1. Make sure what you are about to post passes the “front yard test”. The idea behind this is that you should be able to post a huge sign in your front yard with what you want to post, and it should be appropriate for the world to see.
  2. Use technology meaningfully. This could be accomplished by posting about things that you learn and allowing others to comment on it to grow your knowledge.
  3. Remember that nothing is private online. Think about whether or not you want your grandparents seeing what you post. If they will not approve, odds are, potential employers will not either.

Keep it Professional

Employers especially are looking at your professional profiles to see if you match their criteria for a job opening that you applied for. It is very important to keep your professional life separate from your personal life online because when the two mix, unless what you do personally benefits your professional life in some way, it is most wise to keep them separate. Mixing the two of them can be very risky because many people do not know when to stop sharing their personal lives online. Due to this, it is important that we keep a professional profile of ourselves that we would be proud of and satisfied Professional.pngwith having others view it to determine whether we get a job or not.

Nobody wants to go through all of your past just to find professional content. For that reason, creating separate profiles helps to show what our main focuses are and less about our personal life. Let us look at LinkedIn for example. “As a network that most people use for business, authenticity and integrity are key” (Hanson, 2013). There are many aspects of LinkedIn that are professional such as uploading your resumé or looking for jobs. Being on a professional network allows us to connect with like-minded people, so it is important that we convey a positive image about ourselves to our network. We have to remember that being on social media is a “virtual world [that] is an extension of the real world, not a different world entirely” (Hanson, 2013). The virtual world is where people feel that they can freely express their opinions without getting judged, but we still need to be mindful about what we post.

Employers are watching our every move online

Unless we are some celebrity and have a million followers and get paid, we all look for a job at some point or another. “Given that there are 3.03 billion active social media users and that people have an average of 5.54 social media accounts, social media is now an important part of the hiring process” (Enache, 2018). With that though, comes the idea that we have to be even more careful about the content that we share online and know that one day, an employer will be able to find what we post about. The amount of information that potential employers can find out about us just by our names on the top of our resumés is scary.  They can find things “from family pictures to weekend hobbies WatchingOnlineto professional blog posts.. [because] people share troves of information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn [as well as on other social media platforms] that can be a goldmine for employers looking to get beyond resumes” (Enache, 2018). By doing this a company is able to figuring out who we are and judge us based on our social media profiles. However, for many of us, our online presence displays qualities of leadership, while others forget that they have people watching their every move. We have online and offline reputations that we need to protect because future employers are watching us. In today’s day and age, “ [our potential] employment decisions are already being made based on our online reputations by people” (Fertik, 2018). For this reason, we need to be very vigilant about what we post and remember that even if we delete something from the past, it is never permanently deleted.

Text Citations:

Enache, S. (2018, June 28). What You Should Be Looking at in Potential Hires’ Social Media Posts. Retrieved from

Fertik, M. (2018, February 06). Your Future Employer Is Watching You Online. You Should Be, Too. Retrieved from

Hanson, W. (2013, June 11). Managing your professional reputation on social media. Retrieved from

Kent, M. (2010, January). Directions in Social Media for Professionals and Scholars. Retrieved from

Smith, J. (2014, April 15). How Social Media Can Help (Or Hurt) You In Your Job Search. Retrieved from

Winters, C., & Smart Social Team. (2018, September 27). 15 Easy Tips for Using Social Media Responsibly. Retrieved from

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