how should I navigate social media connections during a job search?

A reader writes:

I recently interviewed for a job at a local media organization. I’m still waiting to hear back from them, but in the past week or so, three people who were in on the interview have followed me on Twitter. I’m not concerned about that — I tweet both personal and professional stuff, but always keep my Twitter free from anything I would be embarrassed for a potential hiring manager to see. I figured since they did that, it was okay to follow them back.

But this brings up some general questions for me about social media during active job applications. It seems like culture around these things varies some by platform and industry — in my industry, lots of people tweet professionally, for example. But I sometimes get Facebook friend requests from people I only know professionally (and maybe even people I’ve never met but who work in the same field) and that always feels a little icky.

It also feels like, as the applicant, I shouldn’t go and follow everyone at an org once I’ve applied, but am I wrong about that?

And what about LinkedIn? I’ve gotten LinkedIn requests before from hiring managers, but as an applicant I would never initiate that. I usually even log out of LinkedIn before viewing a hiring manager’s profile so they can’t see that it was me.

Any rules of thumb about this stuff?

There are lots of different ways to do this appropriately, but here are some general rules:

* If you’re thinking about following an interviewer on Twitter, look first to see if their tweets are mainly professional or mainly personal. If it’s the latter, skip the follow. The same thing goes for other people in the organization you’re applying with.

* But if professional contacts (including interviewers) follow you on Twitter, it’s totally fine to follow them back.

* Facebook generally isn’t for professional use. Some people are exceptions to that and use it professionally, but unless you know for sure that someone does, default to assuming it’s personal. (I’m talking here about non-coworker contacts. It’s more common for people to connect to coworkers on Facebook — but that’s often meant as a warm social gesture, not professional networking. But you also don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. And if you’re a manager, you should give your employees Facebook privacy.)

* If a professional contact friend-requests you on Facebook and you don’t want to connect to them there, it’s fine to ignore it. If you’re ever asked about it, you can say, “Oh, I’m hardly ever on Facebook” or “I just use Facebook for a small group of family and friends, but I’d love to connect on LinkedIn.”

* A lot of candidates do send LinkedIn requests to their interviewers. Some interviewers will accept and some won’t. With those who won’t, it’s usually because they reserve LinkedIn for people they’ve worked with or otherwise know better than they know a job applicant. But it’s not a faux pas to send the request. (Personally, though, I’d wait until after the interview when they’re more likely to feel rapport with you or interest in staying in touch.)

* I wouldn’t worry too much about hiring managers seeing that you’ve viewed their LinkedIn profile. That’s a normal and non-creepy thing to do before you interview with someone. (But it’s also fine to keep logging out first if you’d still rather be covert about it.)

{ 77 comments… read them below }

  1. Mediamaven*

    It actually surprises me how few applicants look at my Linkedin before or after interviews. It’s a good practice to get into in case there are any commonalities you can reference.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You might not know they’re doing it! There’s a setting you can change that means people won’t know you looked at their profile (but in exchange, you can’t see who looked at yours). Or at least this was the case a few years ago; I assume it still is. (Or, of course, they could be logging out like the OP.)

      But yeah, I suspect lots of people just don’t think to do it!

      1. ArchivesGremilin*

        You can get around it in other ways too. I usually look at LinkedIn profiles in incognito mode in Vivaldi which allows me to look at a profile without the person knowing :)

        1. Letter Writer*

          Oh, interesting! I didn’t know about this feature… but I do know that if you pay for LinkedIn premium you can limit who can see your activity. I’m just not willing to pay for that convenience. :)

          1. Goldfinch*

            I’m confused about how that works. If I go incognito (and am willing to accept the trade-off that I can’t see who looked at my profile), do people who pay for Premium get to negate my wishes and see my activity anyway?

              1. OrigCassandra*

                Mmmm… the site may still be able to make a fair guess via web bugs, browser fingerprinting, IP address activity monitoring (one logged-in session, and two seconds later an incognito session from the same IP address? connect the dots!), and similar approaches.

                Incognito mode with a good tracker blocker installed (on desktop/laptop, consider uBlock Origin and/or Privacy Badger) is better. Incognito mode with a tracker blocker and a VPN is better still, and incognito mode with tracker blocker over Tor probably best of all… though perhaps a bit extreme.

                It depends on whom you’re trying to hide from. If you’re just hiding from other LinkedIn users, incognito mode is enough. Trying to hide from LinkedIn itself is a different and vastly thornier problem.

    2. The Original K.*

      I said this in this morning’s “Googling colleagues” thread, but looking at people’s LinkedIn profiles before an interview is a regular part of my preparation. In one case I found out that my interviewer and I had gone to the same small secondary school (he was about 15 years older than I so we hadn’t crossed paths while there), and it was a great ice breaker. But it’s also given me insight into the kind of projects my interviewers have worked on, what their trajectories have been – all useful information when prepping.

      I was hired for that job and one of my coworkers told me he’d “LinkedIn stalked” me when the email announcement with my name went out, and I laughed and said I didn’t consider it stalking – that’s part of what LinkedIn is for.

      1. Cobol*

        Some people are weird about it though. I always do any traceable research not logged in and in incognito mode.

    3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      As someone who is now the interviewer, not the interviewee, I see it as a plus when a candidate views my LinkedIn profile before the interview. It shows they are doing their background research in a way that is completely professional.

    4. Anon Librarian*

      I always Google people I’m going to interview with if I think it’s likely to be a good fit and I’m putting in extra time to make a good impression. I don’t violate their privacy – I don’t look them up on Facebook or dig into anything personal. But I want to know what their interests are in the field. If they’ve spoken at conferences, on what topics? Have they published anything? Do they have a blog? This stuff gives me ideas about what to say or avoid saying in the interview (the latter would be opinions of mine that conflict with ones they strongly hold). I don’t think it’s creepy or manipulative; I genuinely want to find professional interests that we have in common and could have a good conversation about.

    5. J*

      I think about it, but I worry that it crosses a boundary if I do this. I’ve actually discussed this on Facebook with other friends, and this was the consensus we came to: that it’s creepy to social-stalk one’s interviewer, and best done if you’re in private mode, if at all.

  2. banzo_bean*

    Be careful when using the logging out of linkedin trick, sometimes it still shows you’ve viewed their profile. I always use an incognito browser for this.

  3. C*

    I can’t imagine sending LinkedIn requests to interviewers. It seems..pandering or presumptious somehow. I look them up, to be sure, but can’t imagine sending a request, unless I know them otherwise.

    However, I don’t generally connect on LinkedIn with people I don’t know personally, so that’s a thing. I used to be more expansive, connecting with people who went to the same school or worked at my company that I didn’t know, but I don’t do that so much anymore.

  4. Hush42*

    As a hiring manager I would be fine if you connected with me on LinkedIn and would find it completely normal. I’d find it a little strange if you followed me on Twitter but I wouldn’t be too weirded out about it as it’s designed to be a mostly public platform but you’re going to be sorely disappointed because my only tweets are entries into various contests.
    If you sent me a friend request on Facebook I would be weirded out and it would make me wonder about you. While I’m totally fine with job applicants trying to gather professional information about me ahead of an interview via things like LinkedIn and our company website no job applicant needs to see the content of my Facebook page. There’s nothing on there I’d be embarrassed about but it would also be weird for me if a job applicant started asking me about my trip to Boldt Castle this weekend or whatever.

    1. irene adler*

      Would you be fine with me, as a job candidate, connecting with you on LI after I’d been rejected for the job? Or is it more appropriate to connect before the rejection takes place?

      1. Cobol*

        To answer your question most recruiters will be fine, but my question is why.
        They won’t be able to really do anything for you on a different job (as Allison always says just apply the way the job description tells you to), and if they don’t really know you is be hard pressed to think they’ll be willing/able to meaningfully refer you to one of their contacts.
        It’s different if there was dinner sort of special circumstances. Perhaps you had multiple rounds with the same HR person who really liked your skills, but the job description changed, but in my experience those recruiters just become an additional name on your contacts.

        1. Lisa*

          There are so many reasons why! LinkedIn is a long game, you could cross paths again years down the road for another opportunity. Recruiters change companies. Not all interviewers are recruiters, many are industry colleagues who are good to stay connected to, even if just for content-sharing and commenting and other LinkedIn features unrelated to job searching.

          I’m still connected on LinkedIn to a woman I rejected for a job almost 5 years ago. She was the second-choice candidate for an entry-level role, and I sent her a personal note after we went with our first choice, encouraging her to stay in touch so I could watch her career blossom. It’s been great doing exactly that and I wouldn’t even rule out reaching out to her if I was ever hiring for a suitable role one day!

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Same. I would not have hesitation about connecting with a candidate under these circumstances.

            I also use LinkedIn for entirely professional purposes, though, so I don’t mind connecting with people I may not know well or only know through professional introductions.

      2. leeapeea*

        I’m relatively new to the recruiting game, but I had a rejected candidate send a connection request. She’s good at what she does, but what she did didn’t fit what we needed closely enough. The position was still open, and she offered her services again. It felt/feels a little awkward. The invite is still sitting there…

  5. Seifer*

    One of my coworkers at my current company added me on Facebook a little while after I started and I. Burned the village and deleted Facebook. Then acted like I had done it months ago when he asked me. It is not my proudest moment.

    1. Mbarr*

      If I *have* to friend a person, I’ll add them, then immediately put them on the Restricted list so they can’t see updates beyond my profile pic changing. Then I’ll use the, “I don’t use FB often” line.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Wow that was a little over the top. As a general rule of thumb, I’m not friends with anyone on FB that I have to filter myself around. If a colleague sent me a friend request and then asked me about it later, I’d just let them know that I don’t connect with colleagues. If they take offense to that, that’s on them.

      1. Seifer*

        I PANICKED, okay! I remember at the time one of the prominent photos of me on the profile was me covering my boobs and holding a towel up to my crotch to show off the side tattoo I have that my tattoo artist took and I did NOT want coworkers seeing that. Yes, I could’ve deleted the photo, but I was really freaking out (“omg dude’s gonna see my SIDEBOOB”) and honestly a life without Facebook has been pretty great.

        1. fposte*

          I have an ancient FB with nothing on it and haven’t logged in in years, so my thought was “Unnecessary response but possibly good outcome anyway.”

      2. The Original K.*

        Yeah, if asked, I plainly say that I don’t connect with current colleagues on any social media platform other than LinkedIn, as a rule.

        1. JustaTech*

          Saying that it’s a “rule” or “policy”, even if it’s a personal rule or policy really helps make it less awkward.
          I’m not saying no to friending you, overly friendly but generally harmless dude coworker, it’s my policy for everyone.
          Saves face for everyone.

    3. AKchic*

      My rule is: if you’re my boss, you’re not on my facebook. If we’re coworkers, you’re not on my facebook unless I really, really, *really* like you, and even then, you’re on a restricted setting. I have a few accounts anyway. One for absolutely personal stuff. One is my acting persona. Then a few… unscrupulous ones for reasons.

    4. Blue Horizon*

      Decline/block it, find them on LinkedIn, send them a connect request there. Some things you don’t need to feel embarrassed about saying no to.

      (It does sound like you have more faith in Facebook security than I do, though).

  6. MissGirl*

    I’ve heard managers talk positively about candidates who viewed their LinkedIn profile. It shows your actively learning about the company. I keep my searches public.

    1. C*

      I figure there’s no way to know what kind of hiring manager you’ll get (ones that would find it creepy vs. a sign of interest), so I check as myself. I don’t check daily or obsessively or anything, just when I hear their name and maybe again before the interview, if it seems like it might be relevant, but for the most part it hasn’t been a thing.

      I mean, that’s what LinkedIn is there for, right? For you to show your work history or find out about others and network and all of that. If a hiring manager thinks it’s creepy that I checked their LinkedIn profile and excluded me because of that, I’d consider that a bullet dodged, because, well, why do you have LinkedIn, then?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I interviewed someone yesterday who’d looked at my LinkedIn profile and a couple of their questions reflected that they’d looked it over as well. It wasn’t creepy (but I also do not keep any personal info on LinkedIn), and it showed the candidate had done their homework.

  7. NameGoesHere*

    A hiring manager (and their boss who I also spoke with) asked to connect with me on linkedin immediately following an interview – which was surprising to be honest. I usually don’t connect with someone unless I have worked with them in some professional capacity or know them well. I look at profiles for preparation purposes, but would not have connected with them from an interviewee standpoint (my own preference though)! Hopefully that means an offer will be forthcoming!

    1. Letter Writer*

      Hi Letter Writer here:
      I thought that the near immediate twitter follows were a good sign that boded well for me. But as of this time, it’s been over a month since I was interviewed, and they haven’t yet filled the position. So I’m thinking it’s probably a no. But I’ve been tweeting some bomb work lately so my hope is secretly that if they were on the fence about me, some of my recent work will convince them! And in some cases they’ve even “liked” it!

  8. softcastle*

    I added a couple of my interviewers on LinkedIn /after/ the interview, but only because 1) it was a day-long affair and 2) I was an internal candidate, so it wasn’t as weird as it might be for other candidates.

    One thing that was really odd to me, though, was during that particular interview process, another potential candidate began commenting all over our company’s LinkedIn activity about how excited he was to get to send in his application. I looked at his profile (not using incognito mode, my rookie mistake) and he immediately sent me a connection request, including a message about how no one had responded to his application yet and if I could please talk to the Hiring Manager for him and ask what was going on. Readers, it was…so odd. I wasn’t even in the same department as this job posting was in, and he was asking me to talk to the HM for him via LinkedIn! Moral of the story is I guess don’t do that.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      So cringy!
      Not a good look for that candidate.

      Folks should remember that it’s a two way street and employers can see when you’re getting ahead of yourself.

  9. Mbarr*

    Often when I get FB friend invites from work colleagues whom I’m not close to, I assume they probably mis-clicked and accidentally sent the invite using one of FB’s “You might know this person” suggestions, rather than it being a case of them actually wanting to friend me.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Even if it isn’t, it’s ok to let them know you don’t connect to colleagues. Some people collect friends on social media to make themselves seem well liked or very important, so it make be a genuine request.

  10. hayling*

    I had an aggressive sales rep send me a LinkedIn invite and message, follow me on Twitter, send me emails … and when I didn’t respond to any of those, he sent me a Facebook invite!!!

  11. Close Bracket*

    When you get Facebook requests, for the short term, just accept them, unfollow the person, and put the person on your restricted list. For the longer term, review the restricted list now and then and either unfriend or block people on it. I usually wait until it’s long enough that I am pretty sure they have forgotten I exist. If it’s a current coworker, they stay on restricted forever to prevent future friend request awkwardness.

  12. Mainely Professional*

    Does anyone else find it like prettty odd that these people followed the OP on twitter?!

    I would have a hard time not reading “we’re going to hire you” into this.

    1. Alanna of Trebond*

      Not in media. Twitter is essentially an extension of byline, and even if you’re working in a role that doesn’t have a byline, it’s assumed that you’re tweeting on behalf of your organization.

      If she’s applying to, say, be an accountant for a media organization, or an ad sales rep, or something that doesn’t touch coverage, that’s a little more unusual, but in journalism your Twitter is part of your professional identity.

      1. Mainely Professional*

        I’m fully aware of east coast media twitter, and have many friends in it. A follow still feels odd to me unless you’re going to hire them.

        1. Alanna of Trebond*

          I follow applicants on Twitter all the time who aren’t necessarily even going to get an interview, or people we’re interested in recruiting — usually because I’m intrigued by them and want to hear more from them, and Twitter is an easy way to do that.

          I do feel bad that it might get their hopes up, but the reason a lot of journalists tweet is to call attention to their stuff for an audience of potential future employers, so…

          1. Mainely Professional*

            Right, fair. But so you agree there’s something kind of intimate and promissory (maybe that’s too strong, but *something*) about following a candidate who has applied and you’ve interviewed, for instance, on twitter.

              1. Mainely Professional*

                It’s illuminating to me that people have such different takes on twitter and following behavior. My own twitter is that melange of personal and professional, so I do sometimes feel creeped on when workish people follow me, depending on the relationship.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I definitely thought it was a good sign when they followed me! For context, I’m not a reporter, and the job I was applying for was in community engagement. But so far, they haven’t hired me, and it seems like they’re still looking to fill the position :/

      1. Mainely Professional*

        Yeah. :/ I think fwiw it’s kind of weird that they followed you on twitter, no matter how delicately mixed your account is between professional-personal in nature. Like, if I interviewed and then followed accounts of people who interviewed me, wouldn’t that look thirsty as hell?

        1. Letter Writer*

          That was kinda my thought too! But I guess when you’re doing the hiring you don’t have to worry as much about how it looks. No matter what, you’ve got the upper hand in that situation. I also felt *extra* aware of their presence in my followers for a while…

  13. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I think looking at LinkedIn before a job interview is totally normal and good practice…just don’t do what a recent interviewee did, which is turn to the interviewer and say “So when I was LinkedIn stalking you I saw you worked at X, that must have been cool!”

    We work in fundraising, where social grace and making people feel comfortable are vital. That comment did not help the interview get off to a good start.

    1. Mainely Professional*

      LinkedIn, for sure is normal. Even twitter stalking is normal. But twitter following feels pretty intimate to me.

    2. Old Millenial*

      Really? Because it comes across as building rapport and breaking the ice to me. Especially if you have something unique like: started a business, glass blower, or even worked at a famous place like Google.

      I just don’t see this as odd unless it was delivered at a really awkward moment or, brought up a unrelated job like – you worked at Playboy? Hubba hubba!

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Yeah, it was definitely an attempt to break the ice that just didn’t land. If she’d said it differently like “I noticed you used to work at X” or something it would have been received a lot better, but it was just very abrupt/awkward.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah! “Stalking” sounds like more than “I looked you up on LinkedIn.” It sounds like “I read everything I could find about you, everything you’ve liked, etc.”

  14. Old Millenial*

    I guess I am weird as I do side eye candidates who try to connect with me on LinkedIn after an interview.

    It’s supposed to be people you have worked with, I always decline with the “I’ve never worked with this person”option.

    1. banzo_bean*

      I disagree, I do not believe LinkedIn is strictly for those you’ve worked with. It’s a networking tool, and your network is normally made up of more than just your current and previous coworkers. I use LinkedIn to connect with people from conferences and meetups quite frequently. I also know of people who connect with others on LinkedIn that they have never even met because they’re in a similar/small niche.

      1. Cobol*

        I think networking means different things to different people. I agree it’s a networking tool, but reserve networking for people I’ve worked with.
        I’ve accepted invitations from people I’ve met at events, but I’ll never put them in touch with anybody I know.

      2. noahwynn*

        Same! My current job was found when someone I interviewed with 2 years prior saw it posted and reached out to tell me about it. She sent me a message on LinkedIn because we connected on there after the interview.

  15. Alanna of Trebond*

    I work in media (national now, but have worked at a local level before), and following job candidates on Twitter is super normal, especially if they’re interviewing for any kind of role in the editorial process.

    Most reporters tweet about what they cover (even if many tweet other stuff, too), and it’s a good way to gauge how they think, what they’re working on, and sometimes things like how plugged in they are to their beat or the community they cover. There’s also a degree of CYA to make sure their tweets aren’t going to create a huge problem for us, but usually if I am interviewing you for a job, it’s because I think your work is good and I’m genuinely interested in you. Which is the same reason I follow people on Twitter. I also often follow prospective candidates (of the “we don’t have a job for them right now, but I’m interested in maybe having a conversation eventually”) on Twitter as a way to keep up on what they’re doing. I don’t notice or care if they follow me back; Twitter isn’t really a two-way street.

    If you’re going to work in media in any kind of newsroom-adjacent role, having scrutiny of your tweets is a good thing to get accustomed to. (If you’re just working for a media company but not in an editorial role, or if your tweets are private, I’d say it’s a little less usual.)

    (This wouldn’t apply if your tweets were private.)

    1. The Original K.*

      There also tends to be a lot of job-searching that happens via Twitter for media folks. I’ve seen a lot of “I was laid off and am available for full-time and freelance work, DM me if you know of anything” tweets. I follow a woman who started a job search hashtag and she’ll retweet seekers who use that hashtag in their requests for job leads.

    2. Letter Writer*

      Letter writer here,
      I’m not a reporter. I was interviewing for a community engagement role at the org. I’m in a smaller city, and work in an adjacent field so I figured that regardless of whether or not these folks were going to hire me, they wanted to keep tabs on my work going forward. Or maybe there wasn’t that much thought put into it. Who knows! At any rate, as I said in some comments above, I had viewed it as a positive sign that they followed me, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to pan out at this point.

      1. Nellie*

        Late to this thread, but yes, following job candidates on Twitter is very common in media. This would be especially so for a candidate for a community engagement position, as that’s a very outward-facing role that likely could involve some social media work.

        Twitter is not treated as personal social media, but is very much a part of your professional identity. This is very different from many industries. Reporters, editors and producers are used to following a wide range of people in the community and/or within their coverage area. I would not take it as a sign for a job offer one way or the other, though, because it’s so common.

  16. Sydney Ellen Wade*

    What are your thoughts on viewing LinkedIn profiles after applying for a position but before hearing back from the organization?

    1. I Take A Whole Donut*

      I’ve been on a lot of interview panels. I can’t say I have ever been able to tell whether an interviewee checked me out before or after (I am not on linked in every day), but I wouldn’t be put off by it. And I am old and cranky about a lot of things related to interviewing.

      If they try to add me when I didn’t specifically try to connect with them (“look me up, I am happy to talk about the work here,” etc.), that bugs the crap out of me. That’s like, pushy dude internet dating conduct IMO. You are presuming too much.

  17. Majnoona*

    Most of my Facebook friends are colleagues. I study another part of the world and people (all over the world) post what they’ve just published or read, or this time of year post requests for things to assign on a topic. But I wouldn’t do that with colleagues where I work who aren’t also friends. Once a junior faculty member told everyone she had to miss a meeting because she was “travelling internationally” when I could see on Facebook she was on the beach in Cancun.

    1. KEWLM0M*

      Sooo unless she lives in Mexico she would’ve been traveling internationally to get there… just sayin’

  18. tyrannosaurus vet*

    In my industry Facebook is everything. I have so many Facebook contacts I only know tangentially if at all.

  19. Cat*

    My vote:
    Looking at someone’s LinkedIn pre-interview is normal-to-expected.
    Making a request to connect before you’ve even met is presumptuous.
    But I’m of the “I should actually know you and have worked with you in some capacity” school of connecting, rather than the “I’ve come across your name and expect to meet you shortly” school.

  20. Mac and Cheese*

    I’m a firm believer in keeping work connections and Facebook separate. It’s common to get a friend request from someone you interact with a lot at my company, though, so I proactively block my co-workers to prevent them from finding my account at all or seeing it in their “People you may know” thing.

  21. lilsheba*

    I have no problem with people viewing me on linked in, it’s for job searching. But Facebook or Instagram or anything else, I do what I want when I want, and I don’t care who likes it or not. I keep Facebook private anyway, you can’t see anything if you aren’t my friend.

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