By ELIZA KIRKBY, Regional Director

Social media is integral to job searching in the digital age, from using LinkedIn to expand your network and build your personal brand, to following a company on Instagram to gain an insight into their company culture. However, if you’re not careful, social media can also hinder your chance of securing your ideal job.

Most job seekers are sensible enough not to talk negatively about their current employer, colleagues or customers on social media, but there are many other, less obvious ways job seekers are using social media which could have disastrous consequences on their job search.

Do your online professional profiles such as LinkedIn and Xing have a recent, professional looking profile picture? What about your contact details and current job title? If you fail to keep your online profiles up to date with this basic information, as well as your latest skills, projects and achievements, you’re only selling yourself short.

More candidates are being weeded out of shortlists because of discrepancies that show up between their social media accounts and offline CV, particularly surrounding employment dates. It’s vital that your online presence and LinkedIn information matches what’s in your CV. Even if the discrepancy is due to a genuine mistake rather than an attempt to cover something up, it could indicate a poor attention to detail and that you are prone to making errors. At the very least you’ll be asked thorough and specific questions in an interview. At worst, you’ll be removed from the shortlist.

Yes, privacy settings have come a long way, but it’s always safest to assume that anything you post online is accessible by recruiters and hiring managers. So, if you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see it, don’t post it.

To give you an example, I recently heard a story about a candidate who had a marketing director role offer withdrawn when the employer read scathing postings she had made after receiving poor service from an organisation. The candidate had used swear words and even captured and posted screen shots of the conversations. This raised legal and privacy issues, not to mention calling into question this employee’s approach to conflict and communication.

Instead, you should be using social media to create a positive personal brand. For example, you can use Instagram to show your passion for your sector or industry and related interests. This could include your attendance at trade shows, events or networking groups, visits to relevant places, offices or facilities. Through Twitter you can demonstrate your interests and expertise. For example, tweet about a webinar you found informative or a new industry development you are passionate about. Of course LinkedIn represents a large part of your personal brand so make important connections, join relevant groups, post frequently (keeping it professional and related to your job/industry) and update your profile regularly. You should also add links to your work throughout your profile.

If you’re about to interview for a job, the hiring manager is fully aware of your current employment circumstances. It doesn’t look very good when they do a social media search and see that you’re regularly posting at times they know you are at work. It raises questions about your focus and productivity.

Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense to look at publicly available information on social media as part of your pre-interview research to gain an understanding of your interviewer’s background and career journey, the culture of the organisation or to read any published blogs or articles that the interviewer may have written.

There is a difference, however, between researching in order to prepare for your interview and crossing the line from an enthusiastic job seeker to a pushy one. Sending a connection request before you are offered the job can make you seem presumptuous and overly familiar. If you get the job, then by all means connect on professional profiles such as LinkedIn, but until then, stick to professional email correspondence either directly or via your recruiter, depending on your mode of communication so far.

So when the time comes for your next job search, make sure social media is your friend, not your foe. Remember to update your social profile information, sync your CV and online profile, keep all online posts and comments professional, do not post during standard working hours and don’t send a LinkedIn connection request until you are offered the job. My thoughts on this topic were first published here on SEEK.