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Even if you aren’t actively using social media to search for a new job, there is a good chance employers and recruiters are scouting out your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts to get a feel for whether you are their next star employee.

According to a CareerBuilder survey from last summer, nearly half of employers will take to Google to dig up extra info on job candidates and nearly as many will head to Facebook. What they find there could make or break your job prospects.

Half the employers who checked social media sites told CareerBuilder they took a candidate out of consideration for posting provocative or inappropriate material. Almost as many said references to drug or alcohol use did factor into a job applicant’s chances. Even more concerning may be a November study from Carnegie Mellon University that found evidence some employers may discriminate based upon political party affiliation.

To ensure you aren’t a casualty of your own poorly managed social media sites, follow these dos and don’ts for job hunters.

Do have a completed LinkedIn profile

Facebook may be the most popular social media site, but LinkedIn has a reputation as being the most professional. Rather than the place to post pics of your weekend getaway, LinkedIn is the place to post your experience, tout your accomplishments and network with others in your field. Not only does a complete and active LinkedIn profile serve as an online resume, the site also tends to rank high in Google searches. That means the site can help push less favorable results — such as that embarrassing flame war — farther down your search results page.

Don’t let your boss in on the secret

When you are job seeking, you definitely want to spread the word so your friends, family and peers can keep their ears to the ground and help you find the next hot job opportunity coming your way. However, if you are already in a job, you may not want your current boss or co-workers to know you are planning to leave. You don’t have to unfriend your boss, but you may want to exclude him or her from any postings related to your job search.

Do proofread and spell check

If u want to b taken siriously, u need to alway look profesionall.

In the CareerBuilder study, 3 in 10 employers disqualified an applicant because of poor communication skills on their social media sites. Even if your Facebook account is set to private, be sure everything publicly viewable has been proofread, spell-checked and written with correct grammar.

Don’t let social media tarnish your personal brand

Remember, you are selling yourself when you apply for a job. You can go to the job interview, say all the right things and do all the right things, but it may not mean much if your online persona paints a different picture. No matter how passionate you feel on certain topics, keep religious, political and other hot button posts out of the public square. What’s more, being a professional means revealing photos, foul language and references to drug and alcohol use have no place in your public profiles.

Do follow the companies that interest you

Stay in the loop and up-to-date on industry trends by following the social media profiles of companies in your field. Twitter, in particular, can give you an inside track to connect with recruiters, hiring managers and executives in key positions. However, in re-tweeting and responding to these individuals, your goal is not to ask for a job. Instead, it is to establish yourself as someone with knowledge and passion.

Don’t neglect your social media accounts

Don’t set up your social media profiles and then never visit them again. If your LinkedIn profile looks abandoned, recruiters searching online may pass you over. Or they may try to get in touch with you only to find you have outdated contact info posted. Log-in to your accounts at least once a week or, even better, daily to keep your profile fresh and catch up on the latest news.

Do leverage your online connections as offline networking

Having a vast online network is great but don’t forget to take your connections one step further. Ask local connections if you can take them out for coffee or lunch. The purpose of these meetings isn’t to ask for help finding a job but to make a personal contact with others in your field. If the opportunity arises, you can certainly mention you are exploring your career options, but the goal shouldn’t necessarily be to walk away with a job offer.

Don’t ignore your privacy settings

Finally, keep tight control over who views your social media sites. You want companies to find your LinkedIn profile, but you might want to keep your Facebook profile private. Double-check your settings and be sure your page is excluded from search engine results. If you already have a mix of personal and professional contacts as Facebook friends, use the lists feature to limit who sees what.

If you are searching for a job, social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. However, it isn’t hard to avoid common pitfalls. Use some common sense and follow these simple tips to keep the job offers coming.

About the Author:

Maryalene LaPonsie writes about education, technology, careers and personal finance. She contributes to several websites, including Schools.com.

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