forbesA great online presence, or let’s call it a persona, gives you an edge on a job hunt. Landing a job is hard enough these days, why leave a stone unturned? Let me count the ways a smart social media strategy is in your best interest:

  • Using social media-Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter- properly allows recruiters to discover you and to learn about your skills that can solve their problem or need tout de suite.
  • Knowing the best ways to tap into social media sites allows you  unearth  possible job openings that might be a fit for you.
  • Importantly, you can reconnect with past colleagues and pals from across the decades now working in industries, or in companies you’d like to join or gather string on. This sort of simple and subtle networking in the virtual world is essential for everyone in the job market today.

But if you haven’t grown up with web navigation as the younger crew you’re often competing with for jobs has, you need to pay attention. Naiveté can trip you up. A CareerBuilder survey says more than two in five hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate. Arrgh.

That got me thinking about what older jobseekers, even the most well-intentioned social media converts, are doing wrong or simply not doing.

Here are my seven social media mistakes to avoid.

1. Being indiscreet. This sounds intrinsically obvious. But take a minute right now and scroll through your Facebook home page or Twitter feed, and you’ll see what I mean. “Image is everything,” as Andre Agassi coolly said in his successful 1990 ad for Canon cameras.

Posting inappropriate photos and comments will come back to haunt you. Don’t put up a picture that shows you quaffing a pint of ale, or wearing goofy clothes-even on Halloween. Don’t post a comment that hints at bias by race, religion, gender and age, even if it is meant in good fun or teasing. And never make a jab at an ex-employer or boss.

2. Not knowing what’s already “out there” about yourself. You have to run a background check on yourself. Start with  a web search via Google for your name. Surprise. You might discover news articles or blog posts that mention you that might not be so glowing. Facebook, review your profile photos. Many of these are not ones you posted, but uploaded snaps that you’ve been tagged in by a “friend.” Go to the upper right corner of the image and remove it, or untag yourself. On Twitter, you can review mentions on your @ profile and discover tweets by others where you’re mentioned. If you can’t remove an unflattering comment or picture, you can at least prepare a response should a potential client or employer mention it.

3. Not having a LinkedIn profile. This is one of the biggest mistakes that I think older job seekers make. (Read more here). To me, LinkedIn is the basic social media resume tool for every job seeker today. For businesses, it’s where they frequently begin a search if they have a job to fill. For you, it’s a quick way to form a far-flung professional network that reaches back to your roots in childhood even.

And in a competitive job market, networking rules. Employers hire people they know, or people they know know. It’s a tried and true vetting process that hasn’t changed in decades.

Then too, when hiring managers see that you have an electronic profile, it subtly helps ease their worry about you as an older applicant who is behind the ball when it comes to technology.

Dig into it. Visit your page daily. Add updates of new stories that you find compelling related to your field or area of expertise, your interests. Share other people’s updates that you find exciting or thought-provoking. Join alumni and industry groups. Connect, connect, and connect. You never know when you will land on someone who can smooth the path to an interview, or tell you about a job opening or a potential new client. What you post may pop up on a recruiter’s radar, too. See my column here on ways to improve your LinkedIn profile.

4. Oversharing information. No one needs to know every product you like, or everywhere you’ve been. Your entire day is really not that interesting to most people. And it doesn’t reflect on your ability to use your time productively. Before you post an item or link, always think what it says about you and your “brand.”

5. Not dishing out enough of the vital info. This is swinging too far the other way. You need more than a barebones social media presence to make it work for you. The brave host his or her own web page and/or blog, which depending on your profession, might even be de rigueur these days. And it’s not costly or difficult to get up and running.

Even if that’s more than you need, you still need more than a Facebook site that’s shuttered for uber-privacy, or a Twitter handle you don’t tweet out from on a regular basis. Hiring managers do look for a squeaky clean professional image, but they also want to get a sense of what makes you tick and your level of comfort and engagement on social media channels.

Calculated posts on your Twitter account, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and, perhaps, Pinterest, craft a fuller picture for potential employers. For me, you’ll find that horsey news of many disciplines pops up from time to time, say, a well-written feature story by the likes of The New York Times sports writer Joe Drape might appear. I’ve been known to retweet items about my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA’s sports teams, ones that say what a great city the ‘Burgh it is to live in. I also periodically pop up in pictures of where I’m travelling, or foods I savor, can you say Café du Monde beignets?

These posts taken together can help someone understand who I am and if I’m a good fit for their company culture. It also might give a hiring manager an icebreaker for interviews. This works both ways. You can look at their social media profiles and feeds, too. I had a great interview with someone who became a new client after we both commented on pictures of our Labrador retrievers that we had posted on Facebook. If all else fails, bring out  the dog.

6. Not fully using web research to help you with your job searchUse it or lose it. You have the tools at your fingertips– work it. Scrutinize prospective employers using a search engine to see who their clients are, to gather more about their goods and services and to assess the company culture.

I’m a Twitter enthusiast for a mixture of reasons, but one selling point is that there’s no need for a personal introduction, or recommendation, to start getting familiar Just by following tweets, you can stay current with the latest happening from individuals and companies that you may wind up interviewing with. It also keeps you abreast  of industry news and trends. You can add people to your “circles” on Google +, without an introduction. On LinkedIn, you can follow companies without awaiting their approval. Search under the “Interests” tab on your home page.

 7. Being too modest about your accomplishments. Bragging online is not in bad taste, if it’s properly presented. For instance, there’s a place on your LinkedIn profile to add all those sweet nuggets from professional recognitions and awards to volunteer activities and any speaking engagements. And shell out the bucks for a professional head shot. Also ask key clients or professional contacts to do some bragging for you via LinkedIn recommendations.

Encourage people to follow you on Twitter, too. It helps to follow them first, of course–the old I’ll rub your back strategy. Before you know it, people are re-tweeting you and hey, you’re an expert, or at least an interesting person worth getting to know.

Follow me on Twitter, @KerryHannon I’m the author of Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy … And Pays the Bills (John Wiley & Sons), available at

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Kerry Hannon
Kerry Hannon
Kerry Hannon
Kerry Hannon
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