How to Nail Your Social Media Profiles in College

Updated October 27, 2022

How to Manage Social Media Profiles in College... Employers understand the importance of maintaining a good online presence. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Learn the Costly Mistakes to Avoid Now to Get the Job You Want Later

A quick, thoughtless post on a social media platform, even if it's not recent, can make the difference between getting hired or left in the rejection pile. This guide helps students to begin thinking about how to craft their online brand through the use of social media, provides helpful tips on what's appropriate, and gives insider tips on exactly what potential employers are looking for.

As the digital age continues to pervade everyday life, hiring managers are taking advantage of social media to learn more about job candidates.

35 percent of employers using social media to research candidates say they have requested to be friends with a prospective employee who had a private profile; of those, 20 percent said they were rejected.

33 percent of employers reported finding content posted by candidates that made them more desirable for the role, while nearly one-quarter reported that social media posts “directly led” to candidates being hired.

In 2015, 35 percent of employers reported that not being able to find an applicant online would make them less likely to extend an interview.

51 percent of hiring managers utilize Google to begin their research on candidates.

Employers want to see the positive! 60 percent reported trying to find information to confirm qualifications, while 56 percent specifically wanted to get a better understanding of the applicant's online brand.

Sources:;; US News & World Report is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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The Big 10 Mistakes College Students Make on Social Media

  • Not using privacy settings Sites like Instagram and Twitter allow users to make their profiles completely private from those who aren't following them, while Facebook allows members to customize the amount of information seen by followers and non-followers. Facebook is quite specific, allowing users to change the privacy settings for each item shared on a timeline.
  • Trusting privacy settings Although privacy settings can reduce the risk of personal material entering the public eye, even these aren't foolproof. Using the "Photos of" search feature on Facebook provides a look at the types of posts that can be seen—even with privacy settings in place.
  • Posting questionable photos The best rule when it comes to questionable images is to simply not post them and untag any that others may have shared. Even if you are of legal drinking age, a picture including alcohol isn't going to make the best impression. Save them to your computer, but take them off your page.
  • Using poor grammar While it's tempting to be informal on social media, remember that these platforms often serve as the first introduction to potential employers. Reverting to text-speak and endless ellipses may be fine in private messages with friends, but when shared publicly they can give off the wrong impression.
  • Complaining about your current job Your current job may be awful and your boss may be the worst, but prospective employers only see you as a disgruntled worker. Even when refraining from naming the company, this type of behavior tells more about what type of employee you'll be at your next job.
  • Retweeting/posting inappropriate materials Many students feel it's safer to post about controversial topics if it's done via sharing or retweeting someone else's words. While this may remove you somewhat, posting these types of things ultimately shows an endorsement of the sentiments or ideas expressed.
  • Complaining about professors/peers Similar to criticizing a current job, complaining about professors and peers will not be seen in a favorable light. If you can't respect them, what's to say you'll be able to work with your potential boss or colleagues at the job for which you're applying?
  • Sharing confidential information Offering too much information, or talking about details that aren't yours to share, will be an immediate red flag to HR. With all of these mistakes, it's important to remember that hiring committees look at social media behavior and transfer it to a workplace setting. If an applicant can't respect privacy on social media, can they be trusted with confidential information about a company?
  • Discussing taboo topics Although there is no hard-and-fast rule stating sensitive topics shouldn't be discussed online, constantly writing or sharing posts about subjects like politics or religion can raise a few eyebrows. Especially if these posts show strong opinions, they may signal to employers that you are a combative employee. While it's perfectly acceptable to hold beliefs about these topics, the workplace is meant to be a largely neutral zone and these topics are generally not discussed on the clock.
  • Not using social media enough Just as some individuals overly use social media or share too much too often, not using social media can also be a red flag. Hiring committees want to see prospective hires engaging with others, sharing thoughtful information, and demonstrating a passion for their life. Being non-existent on social media can make you seem aloof.

As the Managing Director for an online marketing company, the FIRST place I visit after perusing a resume in consideration for an interview is social media. Standing on the outside, looking into a social post, many things can be "assumed" from social media profiles. Right or wrong, perception is reality. Melanie Ledbetter-Remy, Biztopia

Social Media Expert Interviews

Dr. E. Michele Ramsey, associate professor of Communication Arts & Sciences and Women's Studies at Penn State, Berks, discusses college students and social media.

What's the harm in college students posting whatever they want on social media?

Nothing posted online is private. Ever. If students use bad judgment when posting on social media, that momentary lapse of judgment can stick with them for years. We all make mistakes and have lapses in good judgment, and we're all human. Sometimes we have opinions at one point in our lives that we look back on later and can't imagine ever having. With the advent of social media, those momentary lapses or opinions borne of ignorance can follow and define us for years. Students can absolutely post whatever they want on social media, but they must also be willing to accept the consequences of that communication, which can never be taken back, no matter how many times they apologize or swear they didn't mean what they said.

What's the biggest consistent surprise for college students when you speak to them about their social media image?

In terms of social media overall, they are usually very surprised to learn how many future employers look at social media when hiring. While most realize they are taking risks if they post something problematic on a social media site, they often don't realize that posting only bland material isn't good for them, either. Organizations actually want to see that you have a life with friends, family and events. They want to see you fitting in with people and having fun. If you don't have any of those types of posts, employers may assume you've wiped all the potentially negative messages from your profile and wonder why nothing is left and/or assume that you're not social and may not fit in to their organization. Students are often surprised to learn that they should be posting appropriate pictures from beaches or weddings, for example.

How can college students use social media to aid, rather than hinder, their job search?

It goes back to branding. If a student is a senior in fashion marketing with a great video blog that sets them apart from other graduates, getting that video blog address to prospective employers may be exactly what that person needs to do to get a leg up on the competition. Students need to think about their career aspirations and find a way to show employers that they're thinking differently than others, considering ideas that most others aren't considering, and connecting dots others aren't connecting. Doing these things online also shows that you are tech-savvy.

Students can also use sites like LinkedIn to garner interviews and networking opportunities. Most people don't know how to effectively use sites like LinkedIn or don't look into the premium services they offer. Students should definitely look for resources to teach them how to use these types of sites effectively.

Do you have advice about things you should/should not put on social media?

Students SHOULD post expressions of gratitude for people who help them, appropriate humor, support for others, discussions that support your brand, stories/memories about their life without overly dramatic tones or deep secrets, and things that are a continuation of their résumé. Students should also post at least once per week to maintain a social media presence.

Students SHOULD NOT post illegal activities, bullying communication, trashing of teachers or complaining about school or classes, any images that others could see as negative, or anything they wouldn't be fine with being posted on a public billboard with their name attached. Students shouldn't retweet or repost thoughts of others that might be inflammatory. Once someone posts something that someone else has said, the student owns that post as if they'd been the original poster themselves.

Melanie Ledbetter-Remy, Director of SEO & Online Marketing and Part Owner of Biztopia, discusses the importance of maintaining a good online presence for college students and job seekers.

What does it mean to craft an online brand, and how can college students go about doing that?

A social media profile should be viewed as a brand. Do you represent your brand in a manner that suggests you'd be a good hire? If a résumé has potential, and after a check of social profiles and a Google search, I ask myself “is this person someone that I trust to make decisions on posting on behalf of Bizopia as well as other clients online?” It's my business and trust is an issue. It's a tough question.

A good personal brand and presence online should be viewed no differently than a company's. Would a company want to do business with you? Would you want to do business with the company? That being said, it's easy to tell when someone presents a “fake” social profile. Just don't do it.

What's the best way for students to use social media to create a positive online presence?

Regardless of what certain social media outlets say, posts can and are indexed by Google, so background searches can and will turn up profiles (old and current) as well as posts. Employers understand being young and having fun, but students need to challenge themselves and think about what they are attempting to accomplish on social media. Especially during the college years, does your online presence demonstrate your personality along with involvement in your school, your chosen subject matter, in clubs/organizations? Students can really define themselves through their online presence with a little bit of effort, while still posting about the fun, silly, and sometimes wild collegiate activities.

Do you have any horror stories of students almost getting hired but being picked over due to their online persona?

Real story: A client shared news that she had interviewed this “awesome, perfect fit, fun, upbeat” young nurse that came in for an interview. The doctor was ready to hire - then we checked her Facebook page. The nurse had tattoos EVERYWHERE possible, visible unless covered. Dr. B said that she didn't feel the nurse would represent her practice, therefore the “perfect fit” didn't get an offer. Are there things the young nurse could have done to get the job? No. Why? Because there wasn't a second chance interview.

As a hiring manager, I can look past goofy posts and videos of a potential hire; but keep in mind, I'm in the industry. Some hiring managers just can't get past it. Shares and retweets can affect online presence as well. Typically, it is viewed as supporting or liking a cause when sharing a tweet, a story, a photo, or a comment. Whether you totally agree with all aspects of the share, you might not be given the opportunity to defend your ideas as you would a thesis.

Managing Social Media: Why Does It Matter?

While living in the throes of college life, students' social media profiles may feel far detached from professional aspirations. Would a hiring manager be interested in a video shared three years ago, and would they even be able to find such information? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding YES.

College is a time for students to explore their beliefs, expand their worldviews, see how their opinions differ from those of others. While there's nothing wrong about sharing your thoughts about classroom materials or current events with your peers, it's best to keep these discussions offline.

Many students may feel their online footprint shows a progression to maturity, yet recruiters won't always see the whole picture – they may only find an article posted during high school that shares opinions radically different from current viewpoints. The most important things to remember when curating an online personal brand are that nothing disappears forever, and that social media does, and will increasingly, play a large role in the hiring process.

Steps to Cleaning Up Social Media

1 DO Google yourself

This should be the first step when cleaning up any social media image, as it will show you where your name appears across the Internet. When researching, users should put their name within quotation marks to bring up the closest matching entries. This process is helpful for uncovering online activities that may have been forgotten over the years.

2 DO ensure profile pictures on all platforms are professional

We get it, that photo of you from your friend's birthday party really shows off your good side – but it also shows you holding a beer. Save these photos for your own enjoyment and instead opt for a safe, professional image to serve as a recruiter's first visual introduction.

3 DON'T delete everything

Recruiters will be suspicious if all pages are a clean slate, making them wonder if there's something to hide. They also like to see signs of an active and engaged life, which demonstrates that candidates get along well with other people.

4 DO check your activity log

A Facebook user's best friend, the activity log shows every public move made on Facebook. You may have absentmindedly liked an off-color joke or commented unsavory opinions on a friend's status. The activity log allows you to review these decisions and remove them if deemed inappropriate. This feature can be reached on the main profile page by clicking “View Activity Log”.

5 DO make sure details on all platforms match

The last thing you want a hiring manager to find is inaccurate information. If your résumé says you've been at a current position for three years, but Facebook says otherwise, employers will wonder about the validity of the information you've provided. Be sure all details concerning employment and education history, along with any certifications or trainings, are accurate across all platforms.

6 DO review your groups, likes, and sharing activities

Because information about the groups you subscribe to or the posts you like is typically public, you'll want to double-check if these activities fit your desired online brand. While you may only post appropriate content yourself, the pages that you follow or subscribe to can signal stronger opinions.

7 DON'T disregard your apps

Many apps are now interconnected, allowing users to link login information across platforms. In turn, these apps are given access to information and, in some cases, privileges to post on your behalf. While reaching level 462 on CandyCrush may be impressive to you, hiring managers will question how much time is being devoted to coursework or job responsibilities.

8 DO create a one-stop space about yourself

While it may take some time to clean up years of social media postings, your own website can serve as a safe, curated space where recruiters can learn about you quickly. Personal websites frequently include a professional photo, online résumé, recommendations, links to relevant research or published materials, and contact details. Some free web creation platforms include Wix, Weebly and Squarespace.

9 DON'T forget to clean ALL profiles

While Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are typically the first profiles recruiters will research, don't forget about other platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, and Foursquare. These professional spend their days learning about applicants, so they'll likely do a thorough online investigation.

10 DO continue to post regularly

Recruiters want to see candidates who are engaged in furthering discussion about areas of interest, be they personal or professional. Whether posting appropriate photos showing your passion for nature or sharing news articles related to your professional interests, hiring managers view these activities as positive engagement.

Maintaining a Clean Social Media Image

Online reputation management is a growing area of interest for both job-seekers and those considering graduate studies. Because nothing is private and everything is forever, creating and maintaining a favorable online persona can make the different between being accepted or rejected for a job or advanced degree program.

Because social media is so pervasive, many may feel inclined to abandon these platforms altogether and go off the grid. Although tempting, this behavior could also be troublesome to recruiters and hiring managers. Instead of ditching social media completely, experts suggest finding ways to make social media work for you. A 2015 report by LinkedIn suggests that, while résumés are still an important component of the hiring process, social media profiles are increasingly helpful in swaying hiring committees toward—or away from—candidates.

Some of the best tips for keeping a clean social media brand include:

  • Use privacy settings on all social media platforms.
  • Be careful about joining any groups that could be seen as controversial.
  • Don't talk about politics or religion in polarizing ways.
  • Use Google Alerts to be notified of any new online content that includes your name.
  • Make sure all information about prior work or education appears exactly the same as on your résumé.
  • Change settings to require approval before any posts or photos from others appear on your pages.

Get Ready for Your Professional Life via Social Media

The time to begin plotting a post-college path is while still in school. With professors and career counselors at a student's fingertips, these resources can be invaluable when crafting an online brand. Here are some of the steps to get the ball rolling before graduation day.

Start using professional career websites.

LinkedIn is the leader in online professional networking, and for good reasons. This website can be thought of as a professional version of Facebook, allowing users to post their résumés, connect with other professionals, seek recommendations from previous employers, search job postings, and follow companies of interest. In 2015, the website surpassed three million active job listings; meanwhile, 94 percent of surveyed recruiters said they used LinkedIn for researching applicants.

Use social media to find internships.

A 2015 survey of 50,000 students conducted by LookSharp found that nearly 70 percent have used social media to find their internships, either through researching employers, networking with internship managers, or discussing opportunities on public forums. Social media platforms, especially ones similar to LinkedIn, allow students to interact with potential internship sites in a more informal, connected environment than would otherwise be possible. This setting allows students to showcase their personal brand and gives internship managers better insight into how the student will fit into their company's landscape.

Develop a personal brand.

Developing a strong, cohesive online persona is critical in today's job market, with 52 percent of all hiring managers researching prospective employees via social media platforms. In addition to popular social media platforms, many professionals now maintain personal websites to display their qualifications, experience, skills, and special projects to prospective employers. The most important thing to keep in mind for any platform is the type of content shared. Finding a balance between sharing appropriate personal information and thoughtful professional topics will help hiring managers identify you as a dynamic, attuned candidate.

Think about your professional profile.

Once a personal brand has been established, it must be nurtured and updated regularly to demonstrate a steady progression toward career goals and passions. Questions to ask when posting information include:

  • What do I want to convey to potential employers?
  • What are the skills and experiences I want them to know about?
  • If they were describing what they found about me online, what would the keywords be?
  • Do they have a sense of my passion for and knowledge of this career path?
  • Have I demonstrated an ongoing commitment to my professional life, including taking advantage of training and professional development opportunities?

Connect with companies you're interested in.

Make a list of the top five to 10 companies you would be interested in working with, and find their social media outlets. Following companies on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn will not only help students know when jobs are advertised, but daily engagement with their online brand provides a better sense of the type of company they are and who they're likely to hire. These mediums may also provide the opportunity to interact with the company's recruiter in a more significant way than the traditional path of blind applications.

Social Media Management Resources

A number of professional resources are available to help applicants clean their social media image, build their brand, and get inside the minds of recruiting managers.

A Beginner's Guide to Social Media for the Job Seeker

For individuals who haven't previously used social media, this guide provided by Career Tipster will provide guidance on how to get started and build an online personal brand.

Global Recruiting Trends 2016

LinkedIn compiles an expansive annual report on hiring trends, shedding insightful light on how recruiters are using social media and what they're looking for when reviewing online profiles.

How NOT to Contact Recruiters

In the same way it's important to know what to say to recruiters to get their attention, it's also important to be aware of instant turnoffs. The Undercover Recruiter provides a list of 10 things to avoid when reaching out on LinkedIn.

How to Overhaul Your Online Brand

If a Google search turns up information you would rather hiring managers not see, The Ladders provides helpful information on how to rework your online persona.

Using Social Media to Network & Search

Princeton University's Career Services department shared a step-by-step guide on how to use the unique advantages of platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to locate and apply for positions.

Seven Tips to Get Recruiters to Look at Your LinkedIn Profile

After building an appropriate LinkedIn profile, the next step is to attract recruiters to the page. CIO offers helpful instructions on how to garner more profile views.

SJSU: Career Development

San Jose State University's School of Information provides a comprehensive career development resource, offering details on using social media to enhance online personas, find job leads, increase networking potential, and share resumes with a wider audience.

Social Media Status While Job Hunting

Wondering exactly what recruiters are looking for and how they're looking when researching prospective employers? CoRecruitment offers a glimpse into the mind of a hiring manager.

Tips on Impressing Recruiters on LinkedIn

After locating the profiles of recruiters for companies of interest, many students may wonder about the protocol for reaching out. Look no further than this article provided by LinkedIn Premium.

Well Prepared in Their Own Eyes

A report by the Association of American Colleges and Universities on employer's perceptions of recent graduates and their skills.

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