Social Media Pitfalls and Opportunities for College Students & Grads

A growing number of college students and recent grads have turned to social media to aid in their job search or help them land an internship.  In fact, a recent survey conducted by TweetMyJobs found:

  • 29 percent of job seekers use social media as their primary tool for job searching
  • 45 percent of companies plan to invest more in social recruiting in 2012

Students need to be aware that recruiters and employers have social media accounts too, and that they are using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to screen candidates.  Students should expect that anything they post online will be viewed by potential employers, and be careful about how they present themselves online.  The number of employers and recruiters using social media to screen candidates continues to grow.  A research study commissioned by Microsoft in 2010 found:

  • 79 percent of HR professionals surveyed in the U.S. reported reviewing information found on the Internet when examining job candidates.
  • 84 percent of HR professionals surveyed in the U.S. categorized online reputation information as one of the top two factors they considered when reviewing a comprehensive set of candidate information.
  • 70 percent of HR professionals surveyed in the U.S. had rejected a candidate based on online information, with the top factor for rejection being unsuitable photos and videos online. The study revealed that HR professionals are regularly using information about candidates found on the Internet, which could have significant repercussions.

Although social media can be a great resource to help enhance employment opportunities, it can also be a hazard if a student is not properly representing his or her image or personal brand.  College students should use caution when posting on social media sites.  They need to utilize privacy settings, not use foul language and remove or un-tag racy or unflattering photos. surveyed a group of employers and asked why they rejected job applicants based on what was uncovered on social networking sites.  The reasons given included:

  • 53 percent cited provocative/inappropriate photographs or information.
  • 44 percent cited content about drinking or using drugs.
  • 35 percent cited bad-mouthing of previous employers, co-workers or clients.
  • 29 percent cited poor communication skills.
  • 26 percent cited discriminatory comments.
  • 24 percent cited misrepresentation of qualifications.
  • 20 percent cited sharing confidential information from a previous employer.

Students should use LinkedIn as an online resume and a forum for building relationships and for developing a professional online presence.  LinkedIn is primarily for businesspeople and, with nearly 120 million profiles, it is a medium where students must have a presence.   Employers and recruiters search for job candidates on LinkedIn.  Barbara Gebhardt, President of Opus Staffing ( and an employment field professional since 1981 said, “When screening potential job candidates we regularly review people’s LinkedIn profiles to examine their job history, skills and recommendations for information that will give us additional insight.”

Over the years I have received a number of resumes from individuals seeking employment and internships on Long Island in Public Relations.  I have also discussed hiring practices with many business owners and managers.  We have found that many young people are posting photos and videos that many deem as inappropriate.  Posting these images that anyone can see, demonstrates a clear lack of judgment and thought.  Employers are looking for skilled, thoughtful and motivated employees, not individuals who have questionable judgment.

Social media sites, especially LinkedIn, can be used to effectively support job searches.  Students should secure recommendations early from professors, advisors and other contacts.   Involvement in extracurricular activities should also be listed here.  Students should be involved in groups and involved in discussions this will allow them to demonstrate knowledge, interest and writing ability.  Remember to make as many connections as possible while still in college.  Relationships are an important part of landing a job, and individuals will never know when they will need to be in touch with an old class mates or others contacts from college days.

An individual’s online image and who they are connected with connections matter.  Having the right image can make the difference between landing a dream job or losing an one in a lifetime opportunity.


This article is provided by Bill Corbett, Jr., President of Corbett Public Relations, Inc., a leading media relations, social media and personal branding consulting firm.  For more information go to or to his blog  He can be reached at




  1. Megan Harris (MeganWrites Media) says:

    Great post! I am a recent college graduate (finished my bachelor’s in 2010), and have noticed many of my peers to be using social media in the exact ways you described. Many of my peers from high school still have public photos on their Facebook profiles containing photos of drinking at parties. While this isn’t bad, I am sure potential employers have seen them if little ol’ me can search their names and easily see these photos!

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light. It is important for young people to think long-term about social media and their job prospects.

  2. Bill,
    I agree with you completely. In fact, I wrote a post for this blog recently about the social media enhanced resume that echoes much of what you have concluded. Social media can be a great boon to employment for a job seeker and it can indeed be a detriment if used inappropriately. Readers can refer to:

  3. it is really interesting when you go back in time and find out how the internet has evolved over time from the big desk top screen to our hand held mobile devices,creating more interaction and contact with more people .The use of it has shifted to just sending mails to practically representing yourself before the world either in a good way or in a bad light just with a click of a button.Hence,i agree there should be a lot of caution when presenting yourself. Social media is going to be have a multiple involvement with our everyday activities in the near future make sure u project what you want people to know about you.

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