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You probably never thought you’d hear the words “social media” and “cover letter” together in one sentence. But today, I hope to convince you to consider them to be related when you’re looking for a new job.

A cover letter is a critical component of your job search. It’s a formal letter or an e-mail that you send to the hiring manager along with your resume. It’s your personal narrative. It explains why your background makes you a perfect fit for a particular role. It is often what determines whether a hiring manager will bring you in for an interview.

In the same way your cover letter tells your personal story, so does your online presence. We can no longer assume our personal life and professional job will have a clear dividing line. Google has given employers the power to find us on every social media site. And, they do! Ask any hiring manager if they look up job candidates online and the answer is yes.

Not only do employers look up candidates, but they also make decisions about whether or not to interview candidates using this information. And, they make decisions about which people to hire.

So, what types of posts could really make a difference on social media? I often say, it’s good to think of job searching like going to a dinner party. A dinner party is often made up of people you don’t know. Those people may have different opinions than you on certain topics.

When it comes to work, many of those topics and views shouldn’t matter. They’re completely separate. A hiring decision shouldn’t be made based on what religion you are or which presidential candidate you may be voting for. Unfortunately, hiring managers are human. Even if it’s unconscious, they may judge those who have a different perspective than them.

During the job interview, you want to be judged based on the quality of your experience, and the good ideas that come out of your mouth – not some other detail that’s unrelated to work. One way to protect yourself from this judgement is to be cautious with your social media.

If you’re interviewing, you may want to go easy on topics related to religion, politics, and money. Never post something negative about your current or past employer. And, be aware of photos that are posted of you. Avoid taking photos while intoxicated, or while wearing an outfit or costume you wouldn’t want a respected elder to see you in.

This can be a tall order I know, especially in today’s political season. Our voice and opinions are important. If you feel strongly about sharing your views online, consider tightening your social media settings. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow you to protect your posts, so only your friends see them.

Whatever you do, keep your personal feelings off of LinkedIn. It should be reserved for business. In today’s digital age, social media serves as your personal narrative more than ever before.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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