Is my lack of online presence hindering a job search?
January 31, 2019 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I am not on Facebook, Linked In, Instagram, Twitter, etc. etc. Are these platforms more important or beneficial when looking for a new job today?

The reason that I am not on any of these online/social media platforms is because ~5 years ago, I left a horrible 7-year relationship with lady that had borderline personality disorder....and one of her cornerstone behaviors was to stalk people online via these platforms, either that I knew at work, etc. or had known in the past, i.e. OF COURSE including old girlfriends. This fueled her constant accusations of my infidelity, or her shaming me over how I could associate with people that she viewed as *you-name-it.*

Along with monitoring not only people in my past/current life, she did the same to her own family, circle of non-existent 'friends', whoever she could come up with. She was also under the impression that the whole internet was telling her all sorts of bad things about me, her, her cats, her mom, blah blah blah, based on completely random bullshit she would Google and interpret as some kind of symbolic, cryptic message from the land of synchronicity. Towards the end, she was on her laptop all day long, not working, taking a comm. college class here and there and fucking my life up in many more ways than this, that I will not go into here. I cut her off completely, it was messy, but that was the only way to do it.

So you can see my aversion to having an online presence for her to either look me up for more online stalking, or worse, try to get in touch some way, which of course I would ignore. She hasn't attempted this since then, but I am still a little paranoid. The whole online shit show has pretty much soured me on all this kind of stuff in general. Another argument is the fact that I like keeping my life private/data/etc. out of the hands of these companies and their shady data mining practices. I know it's not 100% avoidable, but the more control I have over it the better I feel. Also, it makes me not live my life online, staring at a smartphone all day like pretty much everyone else around me.

That being said, I'm ready to move on from my current job, after 10+ years here. Is the whole social media thing and Facebook, Linked In, etc. vital to a new job search? If any of that info is missing, are recruiters/HR people today going to just skip over me, does it look bad? I have my resume, portfolios, etc. all easily shared and accessible, and provide it when applying. Maybe it's the usual black hole that I've encountered 99% of the time with recruiters/HR departments....?
posted by kilohertz to Work & Money (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
It depends what your field or specialization is, but, no, you don't need to have an online presence. LinkedIn is the one place that comes to mind, but I know plenty of successful people that do not have a great LI profile.

A couple of things to think about when considering HR / the recruiting process:

1) it takes one month of job search for every $10K in salary (i.e., job searches for professionals can take a long time)
2) the keyword-match scores on your resume and covering letter matter much more than social media profiles

One thing you can try to do is ask a recruiter how marketable you are, and how you might improve. Recruiters are great in that they get commission for getting you hired. And they can be very blunt when asked about how marketable you actually are.

For me, the key to picking up good work at mid-career has been talking to people and keeping engaged in my community. This means I have to have an online presence, but it's not totally necessary. Picking up the phone or emailing someone or attending industry events on a regular basis also helps.

Think like a biz dev professional -- be your own biz dev and sales team. That's what's worked for me.
posted by JamesBay at 11:43 AM on January 31, 2019 [4 favorites]

I don't know what field you're in or what stage of career, but in my and others' experiences in the past couple of years, LinkedIn has become almost 100% necessary.
posted by General Malaise at 11:43 AM on January 31, 2019 [19 favorites]

It might be harder for you to network, but at the application stage it doesn't seem like a significant issue. I work in digital ... stuff... and I would definitely notice, but I wouldn't be concerned. I might conclude that you were not an Extremely Online person, but unless you're applying to be a social media manager, that wouldn't be a point of concern. Even if you do UI design, a strong portfolio/case studies and the ability to talk about your work is far, far more important.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:53 AM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

It depends on the field, but as a hiring manager I absolutely look at applicants' LI profile - I generally look at it when we're down to the final candidates. I look for the following: shared connections, recommendations given and received, professional memberships, and which of their skills are most endorsed. I bear in mind that these things are often gamed, but I still look. If you're not on LI, I generally assume that you're either a) part of an older, less tech-savvy generation or b) very new to the professional world [ie, not new to working, but maybe as a waiter or similar, not a 'professional'/white collar job]. This may or may not be accurate, but these are the assumptions I think you would need to combat if you do not have a LI profile.

I personally am not on any social media except LI, so I don't look at any other social media platforms when evaluating new hires, but I know plenty of people who do. I don't think not being on Twitter, FB etc would hurt your job chances, though, unless you're in a PR or Communications role OR you are positioning yourself as an expert whose opinion is often solicited industry-wide. In that case, I'd wonder how people found out about you if you weren't promoting yourself in the usual channels. Otherwise, I see no issues re no social media.

In your specific case, I would probably create a LI profile, even given your potential stalker. I would connect it to a specific email that I didn't use for anything else. Having a job-specific email is good practice anyway, for your resume. She wouldn't be able to comment on your profile or do anything to sabotage it, and if she ever sent you a connection request you could just ignore it.

Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 12:02 PM on January 31, 2019 [12 favorites]

As someone who has done a lot of hiring, I would be curious if you didn't have a LinkedIn. (The other ones only matter in specialized industries.) I might ask about it in an interview, in case I was missing it. If someone said that they had privacy concerns with social media, I would take that in good faith. It's a valid concern. That's different than someone saying "I don't have time for that stuff" or "I didn't think of that" or whatever.

If you decide to make a LinkedIn, you can block people. And yes, I wouldn't put any contact info on it, except for a email address specific to job hunting.
posted by greermahoney at 12:09 PM on January 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

LinkedIn was 100000000% essential for me when I was looking for work last summer. It's really the only social media network I use anymore and, cliches and the like aside, it was very necessary for me.
posted by hijinx at 12:27 PM on January 31, 2019

I do think LinkedIn is necessary and you have a lot of control in who sees information and who can contact you. Other people can't post on your profile, though they can like and comment on posts you make.

But the most important thing you can do for your job search is to network. Talk to people in companies and industries you're interested in working for. Develop relationships outside of an actual job posting so you're in a good position when a job post lists. Go to conferences, happy hours, presentation. Ask people to have informational meetings with you.
posted by brookeb at 12:28 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Totally depends what kind of work you do. In my line of work, the only thing your social media presence can do is hurt you. For instance, if I were posting expletive-laden Facebook rants about my current employer, prospective other employers would probably look askance if they saw that. I guess maybe if they saw that I was into stuff that they thought would make me a good culture fit, that might help on the margins. But mostly it's just not important.

In other jobs, it can be everything. Like, if you're applying for Social Media Manager, a well-curated personal social media presence is probably something prospective employers look for.

It really depends, and we can't know how it affects you based on what you've said here.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

As someone who does hiring (and gets interviewed herself), I do look up people's LinkedIns just for additional context. If I can't find one, it's never particularly bothered me. I don't have social media, but do have a LinkedIn that I keep updated with limited information. I've never found it particularly useful for getting a job or even networking (personally) and I don't know anyone who does; it seems really dependent on a myriad of factors. You might consider reaching out to colleagues who have recently moved on from your current workplace to see what they're experiences have been.

Good luck in your search!
posted by sm1tten at 12:47 PM on January 31, 2019 [3 favorites]

I do think LinkedIn is worth considering. You can proactively block someone, which would make it harder for your ex to stumble across your profile, though of course that wouldn't keep a really determined person from finding you there, I guess.

A good resource for you would be other folks in your industry. You could try searching around on LinkedIn and get a sense for how folks in your industry are using it.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:51 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

This depends heavily on what kind of work you do and whether your work involves proving you can engage with people on these platforms. If you avoid social marketing 100% you can still find a great job but IMO you have to then put more effort into actively connecting with people who are hiring, and making sure they know and remember something about you & your skills. Social media for job hunting is largely about getting information in a timely manner (knowing when jobs open up) and allowing the profile/info on it to vouch for your experience and others' impressions of you - so instead of calling you or looking up your resume amid the hundreds submitted, the recruiter googles your name and instantly sees where you went to school and worked in the past.

I used to work in government; at that time avoiding FB and sticking with a vague LinkedIn was seen as the professional, responsible move. Currently I work more for myself (real estate) and in a medical setting, so I don't need to do online marketing on social media and can avoid those platforms. I do use a social network for real estate professionals called BiggerPockets. It has been useful because it's specific to the field (no small talk, no pictures of people's kids, forums are organized by work related topic, there's no "wall" on user pages, etc). It can help me find vendors, learn from other professionals, and do research. Maybe there is something similar in your field? If so, you might want to consider doing that instead of FB or LinkedIn. might also be useful for you - you can set up a resume on there that looks like LinkedIn and probably will reach some of the same sets of eyes.

Without knowing more details about your situation and what kind of job you want...just think of having a LinkedIn page as having a public resume, even if you don't spend a lot of time connecting with others on their platform. Preemptively block anyone who you suspect could bring drama into your life or would stalk you. You don't have to post very often, you can just have a profile.

Use a clean, brand new email address to sign up. Use a photo of your alma mater's logo or your current employer's logo as your profile picture. Omit the month part of dates, or leave out references to specific towns, if you feel that info makes you too identifiable (i.e. list yourself in the Greater NYC Area instead of Brooklyn, NY for example).

LinkedIn can also be a great way to make a low pressure connection to people currently working for companies you are interested in applying to, or to see where others from your school/training program are working now. Jobs are advertised on there, and the site can help you figure out who your hypothetical supervisor or hiring manager will be if a posting doesn't say that in detail. You can unsubscribe from email notifications and not download the LinkedIn app, in order to minimize its invasion into your downtime.
posted by zdravo at 1:14 PM on January 31, 2019 [2 favorites]

If any of that info is missing, are recruiters/HR people today going to just skip over me, does it look bad?

There are two important variables. The first, as others have said, is your industry. Different industries have totally different attitudes and practices about this stuff. The second variable is the person—and more likely, people—who are reviewing your application throughout the hiring process. As you can see from the answers above, different people feel differently about this. Who's going to be looking at your application? For practical purpose your question becomes, "Is there a chance I'll lose points if I can't be found on social media?" Yes, there is.

Based on your experience, you might conclude that someone who can't be found online is trying to be discreet for safety reasons. That's perfectly reasonable. But someone else might make a different inference—like for instance, that the applicant can't be found on Facebook because the applicant is using a pseudonym on Facebook to engage in behaviors that employers wouldn't like. That, too, is very common and therefore reasonable. And if that person is reviewing a dozen applicants and three of them have really positive, glowing social-media profiles...well, then the invisible person probably doesn't get hired. Even if it's not a demerit, it may be a lost opportunity that a competing applicant took advantage of.
posted by cribcage at 2:49 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was job hunting, every serious enquiry came through my LinkedIn profile. In my industry and location if you're not on LinkedIn you're completely invisible. No one seems to be looking anywhere else to find candidates.

Other social media profiles, such as Twitter or FB, aren't really important unless you're looking for jobs where you're creating content for social media. I don't reference my mostly dormant FB account anywhere, and no one has ever asked me about it or why I don't mention it. But pretty much everyone I spoke to in my job search wanted to see my LinkedIn profile.
posted by ralan at 3:23 PM on January 31, 2019

I think LinkedIn is truly the only one that matters. Facebook accounts should be really locked down and private, and most people don't have much use for Twitter. I do think LinkedIn can be helpful to look for jobs or allow recruiters to find you. Check all the privacy settings very carefully before you use it - you can block your profile from showing up on Google searches or for non-LinkedIn users - but at least one of the nice things about LinkedIn is that it's not for regular updates about your life and it's not really a communication tool between people who aren't recruiters, so a stalker shouldn't get much info from it, especially if they already know where you work. But only put info on it you're willing to be public, even if you lock it down as much as possible.
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:31 PM on January 31, 2019

I always look at people's social profiles when hiring. I'm hiring for positions that generally require people to be savvy about social media, so that's the primary reason - but I think it's a fairly common part of the hiring process for most jobs nowadays. I am always extra impressed if they are on social media but I can't see much about them - that means they understand privacy and security settings and I am more confident about how they will handle our customer data. I would be a little surprised if I couldn't find anything about them. If managing social media weren't part of the job, I probably wouldn't hold it against them, but I would notice it.

But something that I haven't seen anyone else address - are you sure these potential employers think that you don't have a social media presence? Or is there a chance that there is someone with the same/similar name that has a negative social media presence that could be damaging to you? That's probably the #1 reason in my mind to be on these platforms - to take control of your name and reputation. I'd recommend that you lock down privacy settings and proactively block your ex on one or two key platforms just so that it's apparent you exist but you don't put yourself at risk.

(My sympathies; I was stalked by an ex for a couple years and it was a frustrating and scary experience. I remained on social media but enacted very strong privacy settings and blocked his email address everywhere I could. Anything public facing that you can see without being logged in to a platform is as private as I can make it (profile pics are not of my face, etc.). I even changed my username here. It's been a hassle but I haven't heard from him in some years now, and I'm glad I've maintained control over my online reputation. But my work involves social media marketing - if your role is super removed from that, perhaps you can get away with not participating.)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:54 PM on January 31, 2019

Like other have said it depends on what industry you are in. Though I truly believe that you can be successful in any field without social media. I'm not a fan if social media. I'm on a lot of it but mostly as an observer and for entertainment purposes. On the flipside I know some people in my industry who use social media a ton and it helps their business. But if it's not your thing you can probably survive just fine without it. Some of the most successful people I know aren't on social media. So go figure.
posted by ljs30 at 9:26 PM on January 31, 2019

Just adding another voice. As a hiring manager I would be very dubious if someone did not have a LinkedIn profile or one that was super thin in details. But as others have stressed this depends on your role and industry. Often my candidates may have a thin LinkedIn people but then they would have a link to their portfolio - which is not uncommonly password protected. Most of these cases involve a recruiter who would get the password for me. I don’t think I would bother if I was “cold” screening them.

For avoiding your stalker, you can maybe post your first initial and last name? And as others have said you can lock it down as to who sees details and connects with you. And you don’t need a profile picture, but put some image not the stock image.

The more social accounts reaaaally depend on the role. Are you a social media marketer? Well the, yeah mandatory. Scientist in a lab? Ehhh maybe not so much (although it could be cool depending on what you posted).
posted by like_neon at 4:22 AM on February 1, 2019

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