Managing Social Media For Job Searches . / Credit: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com image via Shutterstock

Facebook can help job seekers find a new position, but it can just as easily cost them one, new research shows.

A study by CareerBuilder revealed that more than 40 percent of hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year.

The research found that employers who stopped considering a candidate after researching his or her social media profiles discovered a variety of disconcerting content, including provocative and inappropriate photos, information about the candidate drinking alcohol or using drugs, posts from the candidate bad-mouthing previous employers and information that contradicted their previously stated qualifications.

On the other hand, 20 percent of the hiring managers surveyed said that while conducting their social media research, they have found information that has caused them to hire a candidate, including his or her professional image, well-rounded interests, creativity and communication skills.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said employers are using all the tools available to them, including social media, to ensure they make the correct hiring decision.

"For job seekers, it is essential to be aware of what information they're making available to employers, and to manage their online image," she said. "At the same time, hiring managers and human resources departments must carefully consider how to use information obtained from social media and whether it is relevant to a candidate's qualifications."

Haefner suggests several tips for job seekers trying to portray a positive online image:

  • Search yourself: The easiest way for employers to research a candidate's online profile is to perform a simple search on Google and other sites. Job seekers should try it out for themselves so they know exactly what the employer will see, and remove any digital dirt they wouldn't want a potential boss to encounter. Some browsers may save information and, therefore, affect the results of your search, so search from a public computer.
  • Read privacy settings: Social media sites change their privacy settings often, and occasionally this leads to a change in users' personal settings. It's a good idea for job seekers to regularly check the privacy settings for all of their social media accounts.
  • Showcase talent: This is an opportunity for job seekers to provide evidence that they are as exceptional as their résumé says by posting their awards and accolades, volunteer activities and other accomplishments. Employers often search social media to learn more about a candidate's qualifications or to see that they're well-rounded, so be sure to put that information front and center.
  • Keep tabs: Just because job candidates may be careful about what they put online doesn't mean their friends are so cautious. Therefore, job seekers should also pay attention to what others are posting on their social media profiles and what posts they're tagged in, in order to fully protect their online image. 

The study was based on surveys of more than 2,100 hiring managers and human resources professionals.

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