A Strategic Guide to Cultivate Professional Social Profiles

With increasing user-generated content over social media platforms, hiring managers are using Artificial Intelligence to screen candidates’ online presence. The advanced AI systems can assess candidates’ thousands of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts for clues about their personality. According to an article from the Washington Post, even a babysitter must pass the AI scan for respect and attitude before securing a job.

Cultivating a positive and professional online presence can help you get an internship, land a job, or attract future clients. In this post, I will walk you through (1) what social profiling is, (2) why professional social profile matters in the job-seeking process, and (3) how to cultivate a positive online brand. 

What is Social Profiling?

In general, profiling refers to the data science process of generating a person’s profile using algorithms and technology, with the purpose of making recommendations and decisions. Social profiling is an emerging approach to modeling user profiles generated using social network data. Based on the Jobvite Recruiter national survey in 2015, employers are primarily using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to research candidates.

Why Does Managing Professional Social Profiles Matter?

According to a national survey from Career Builder in 2018, 70% of employers use social media in their pre-hire screening and assessment of candidates. What are employers looking for?

However, more than half of the employers (54%) have found content on social media that caused them not to hire a candidate. For example, inappropriate content, information about drinking alcohol or using drugs, discriminatory comments, bad-mouthing previous employers, poor communication skills are some of the red flags.

How to Cultivate a Positive Online Brand?

Apparently, job seekers have a brand to protect online. The following tips will help you cultivate a positive online persona. 

  • Google yourself

The easiest way to get an idea of your online presence is to google yourself. What would employers find? See for yourself. 

  • Set up a clean and professional photo

Profile photos and cover photos are one of the first things that employers are going to see when they view candidates’ social profiles. Providing clean, friendly, and professional images will play a critical role in leaving a positive first impression on potential employers. However, please don’t use offensive photos (anything containing nudity, alcohol, racial slurs, offensive language/signs, etc.)

  • Provide a valuable description

Providing a succinct and valuable description on social media, especially platforms like LinkedIn, helps employers know you more directly. The short bio serves as a personal opening “pitch,” where you can highlight your top talents/skills and state your interests or areas to grow. Be professional but interesting. 

  • Check privacy settings

Before you share any photos or links, be sure to check the privacy settings. Not everything you share has to be seen by “Everyone.” Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow users to customize the amount of information visible to different audiences. You should also check your activity log and delete or hide any potentially offensive content on your profile. You will also want to double-check the groups you joined, the pages you followed or subscribed, the posts you liked because they also contribute to your online brand. The following photo shows how to adjust the privacy settings of your Facebook profile.

  • Produce engaging content & build networks

Having a social media account isn’t enough to show your values to recruiters. It is wise to share a good mix of interesting and thought-provoking content. You want to show your passion, personality, and interests both inside and outside of your career.

Building a solid network is also important. Instead of using social media as a way of self-promotion, be a cheerleader and show interest in others’ work. Interacting and responding to the people in your networks indicates that you are getting along well with others.

  • Make sure details on all platforms match

Inaccurate information is not something that you want hiring managers to spot. If your LinkedIn says you had worked at a current position for three years, but Facebook says otherwise, employers will doubt the validity of your qualification. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the information you provided regarding employment history, education, and certifications/training are consistent across all platforms. 

  • Post regularly

While some candidates overly use social media, others are almost non-existent online. Employers want to see prospective colleagues engaging with others, sharing thoughtful information, and demonstrating a passion for their life. Not using social media enough can make you seem aloof for potential employers. Be it personal or professional, sharing content of your areas of interest is a sign of positive engagement.

In sum, using social media strategically can aid rather than hinder your job hunting. With AI increasingly transforming HR and recruiting, job seekers should be careful about every digital footprint they leave and make every effort to create a positive and professional online brand.

Further Reading

For more information on ways employers are using social media to screen candidates and how to maintain a clean and professional online presence, please check out these additional resources:

If you want to know more about social profiling, click here to view the slideshow presentation.


Blog post written by Yeqing Kong, NC State University, Mar 23, 2020. Featured photo image by Alex Iby on Unsplash.