Main image of article Surprising Things Employers Look For In Your Online Profiles

Today, most job seekers expect recruiters and hiring managers to check out their profiles on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn and GitHub before reaching out with the opportunity to interview.

Their presumptions are supported by data, which shows that up to 70 percent of employers use social media sites to research and screen potential job candidates.

But do you know what recruiters really look for when they engage in “social sleuthing”? “They’re looking to learn something new about you; something that’s not in your resume,” explained Kate Williamson, a chemical engineer and owner of Scientech Resumes.

To ensure that the information in your online profiles actually helps your chances of landing an interview, here are some surprising things employers look for in your online profiles.

Your Career Trajectory

Employers aren’t just interested in where you’ve been but where you’re going. They’re looking for continual growth in responsibilities, the progression of your career, your interests and the roles you want to target as you move forward. If you only focus on what you’ve done in the past, employers will have no idea what you really want… and they’ll move onto someone else.

To create a future-focused vision that captures your aspirations, present several job titles and headlines (by opting for the full character limit) that highlight both your current and future career points.

Then, to make sure your profile comes up in searches for the jobs you want to pursue, be sure to add keywords that match your future jobs to your experience and profile sections. For example, if you’re currently a data analyst who aspires to become a data scientist, use the “aspirational” or mission section of your social media profiles to describe the skills you’re learning to make that transition, along with any personal projects and other details that highlight your initiative.

Who You Are and What You Stand For

Employers want to get a better sense of who you are and what sets you apart from other candidates when they look at your online profiles. They also want to assess whether your values, beliefs and behaviors align with the company's culture, noted Donna Serdula, founder and president of Vision Board Media and author of “LinkedIn Profile Optimization For Dummies.”

They’re interested in learning about the skills and values that make you unique, Serdula said. For instance, are you passionate about mentoring others or using your skills to understand and solve customer problems, or to create a cohesive experience for end users?

While having a well-defined brand is a good start to showcasing who you are, you need to support your claim by explaining who you help and how it solves a problem for them by providing specific details about the impact of your work. If you can show that you're more than capable of overcoming diverse challenges while successfully utilizing the principles of good teamwork, you're more likely to impress a hiring manager or recruiter. 

Your Well-Roundedness

Employers are looking to see how you spend your free time when they review online profiles, and for good reason, explained Nikita Gupta, a former big tech recruiter and co-founder of

According to numerous surveys, well-rounded people who have a variety of interests and hobbies outside of work are more productive and are less likely to experience burnout or fatigue.

Highlighting extracurricular activities, side projects, volunteer work such as NGO internships, recent courses, part-time jobs and awards not only demonstrates well-roundedness but a commitment to professional growth and development, Gupta said. It also gives you the opportunity to showcase important soft skills like motivation, work ethic, leadership, compassion and teamwork skills to prospective employers in a way that a resume can’t.

Effort and Engagement

The effort you put into developing your profiles, image and professional network says a lot about your motivation and the effort you’re willing to make to attract top employers, and by extension, put into your work.

Landing a dream job takes a lot of self-awareness, perseverance and creativity. If you use a standard background for your profile, a dated photo or simply copy-and-paste the content for your “About” section from your resume, it creates the impression that you’re lazy or don’t get it, Serdula said. Plus, you’re not taking full advantage of the platform's capabilities.

Recruiters notice small things to judge your effort, creativity and engagement. For instance, using the first person in your LinkedIn summary section, creating a customized URL and making it easy for people to contact you by publishing your email address or investing in a premium subscription will make a positive impact on reviewers.

FYI, they will also notice your “likes” and the number of comments you share in response to posts and articles. To demonstrate professionalism and emotional intelligence, it’s best to avoid controversial topics; and if you express a preference for a particular tool, testing protocol or development process, always frame it in a positive way.

Be thoughtful about what you post, because you never know when expressing a personal or professional bias may turn off or offend a reviewer. “Make sure everything you put out there aligns with your values,” Serdula said.

Application of Skills

After initially looking for alignment between a candidate’s skills and their company’s tech stack, reviewers will probe deeper to see how you’ve applied your skills, the things that you’ve built and the thought process behind your solutions, potentially in conjunction with your GitHub profile and repository.

Adding a README file to a repository is vital for providing context and communicating important information about your project, especially to non-technical reviewers, Williamson said. A well-written, detailed README file that explains the what, why and the how of the project not only demonstrates your ability to apply the skills and knowledge that you have developed, but your writing skills and your ability to create quality documentation.

Reviewers will also make basic judgments about the quality of your work and your attitude by reading the comments left as part of a GitHub review and the way you respond to feedback.

With skills-based hiring on the rise, highlighting your unique ability to apply your skills and communicate effectively with peers can impress potential employers and open doors for new opportunities.