According to a recent survey by Career Builder, around 50 percent of employers now routinely use social media to screen job candidates. As impressive (and possibly intimidating) as that statistic is, keep in mind — it’s growing fast. That means that even if you wanted to ignore social media when it comes to your job hunt, you just can’t. And since you can’t ignore it, you may as well make it work for you, right? Well, you can do that first by anticipating what it is exactly that employers out there hope to ascertain by trolling your social media. Once you’ve figured that out, you can beat employers at their own game by creating a powerful personal brand that makes you stand out from the crowd.

By visiting your social media pages, HR managers and employers are looking to get a clearer idea of who you are as a person. That includes checking out what you look like and even how you tend to dress; how well you communicate in status updates, tweets, and blogs; what your general attitude and demeanor seems to be like; what interests and affiliations you might have; and about a million other intangibles that are hard to isolate but that indubitably contribute to the overall, ineffable impression that makes up “you” — at least, “you” as you show up in your social media. As an eager and responsible job seeker, you’ll want to manage this impression as much as you can. Below you’ll find some tips on how to turn social media to your advantage.

A Cohesive Whole

There are now thousands of social media platforms and portals. Maybe hundreds of thousands. When trying to tighten up your personal brand, you’ll want to consolidate your social media presence into just a few pages/services that you can realistically keep up-to-date. Don’t spread yourself too thin. And don’t let your brand get diluted. Even though you might come across somewhat differently on LinkedIn than on Facebook or Twitter, you don’t want there to be so much dissonance between your identities that employers suspect you’ve got multiple personalities. Revisit and revise your social media pages to make sure the impression they give is relatively consistent, accurate, and appropriate for any type of job you may be applying for.

From the Heart

In order to have a truly powerful personal brand, it has to be genuine. Don’t try to be someone you’re not in social media. Be yourself — but intensified. Social media gives you an opportunity to pull together all your various skills and passions, and to curate them. Before you begin your social media makeover, though, it’s worth doing some exercises that will help you arrive at what your genuine, “from the heart” personal brand is. Try thinking of yourself like a product. Ask yourself what your selling points are; what’s unique about you as a person and a job candidate; how do you fit into the job market; what’s your competitive advantage. Do what real advertisers do: spitball and brainstorm. Use what you come up with to compose a marketing plan for “you.”

The Application Should Match the App

As you work on your social media presence, don’t forget to check back in with your traditional application package materials: your resume, cover letter, etc. Too often, job candidates get lost in the endless possibilities and seductive self-stylings of social media, and they forget that what actually appears on their resume is a lot less mutable. While it’s perfectly acceptable (and highly recommended) to add some flair and color to your candidacy with a vibrant personal brand, make sure the foundation you’re building is solid. Or, as a coach might remind you, “Don’t forget the fundamentals.” Again, the impression that an employer or HR manager gets from your social media pages should complement and enhance your resume, not arouse suspicion that one of these two versions of “you” may be an imposter.

For more information on personal branding and other employment-related issues, please contact the experienced recruiting professionals at Masiello.