Social Media & the Demise of the Application

“Whether students realize it or not, their social media has become their résumé, cover letter, personal statement and letter of recommendation all rolled into one.” – Alan Katzman

Most of us readily accept the truthfulness of this mantra based on what we see in our daily lives.

Technology has changed the way we communicate, the way we shop, the way we learn, the way we work, the way we play, the way we share, the way we research and the way we travel.

Yet, when people argue that technology is changing the way colleges and employers find and assess their candidates, we are told, “not so fast!”

The people who raise the caution flag in these contexts are most often consultants in their ivied towers protecting a multi-billion-dollar industry built on maintaining the sanctity of SAT/ACT prep, professional résumé and essay writing, and the “old boy network” style of recruitment.

For students, social media has become the essay, résumé and cover letter they didn’t realize they were sending.

Social media has quickly evolved from a peer-to-peer platform to a public showcase of an individual’s talents, skills, interests, activities and accomplishments. Social media now plays a role in the due diligence.

validation for college admissions, athletic and academic scholarships, employment and other highly selective processes where scrutiny of a person’s character and credentials come into serious consideration.

It is important to remember that job and college applications, as well as the résumé, were conceived as an easy and necessary way for applicants to deliver key demographic and experiential information to an employer or college. There is nothing magical nor remarkable about these superficial conduits of information.

People have always been much more than a list of facts and dates. This is precisely where social media shines and why technology obviates the need for traditional documentation of one’s life. Much in the way the smartphone has made the landline telephone obsolete, social media has made the traditional résumé and college application obsolete.

Along these lines, applicants to Cornell’s M.B.A. programs can now pre-fill parts of their applications — such as their employment history and educational background — with information from their LinkedIn profiles. Cornell officials said the university is the first higher education institution to incorporate LinkedIn into its application.

Realizing the treasure trove of actionable data stored by social networks, colleges and job recruiters are increasingly using the search capabilities of Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to identify, assess and recruit targeted talent. This is known as “social recruiting” and “the extent to which individuals have established a strong and compelling online presence is having an impact on who gets admitted and on who gets the interview and job.”

At the heart of this movement is the perceived ability to judge a candidate’s integrity, credibility and character by way of social media. Accelerated by real-time social media conversations, candidates can stand out and impress decision-makers simply by packaging their experiences in smart and deliberate ways.

“If someone sends us a link of any kind, it doesn’t have to be from some company or some organization, if it seems relevant to making the best possible case for that person’s admission, we will certainly take a look at it.” – William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard Dean of Admissions

With social media recruitment and vetting rapidly growing in importance, an easy-tofind and reflective social media presence is mandatory in today’s digital age. Wise students, realizing colleges and recruiters are active on social media, take it one step further. They use networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn to actively engage with companies, communities, influencers, college groups and organizations. This increases their overall network reach and their chances of being found. They make sure their Twitter profile sends the right message and provides a link to their personal website or LinkedIn page. This way, people who click on their Twitter handle will be able to easily navigate  through their online presence and make important decisions about them along the way.

With close to 1.9 billion active monthly users, Facebook is the go-to network for social recruitment as well as for social media character vetting. Students should set their Facebook profile page to public and make it searchable. Students should be completing all aspects of their “About” section to permit Facebook’s search engine to index the information for potential searches. Facebook should also be used to post relevant experiences using photos, videos and words. Have these stories reflect your personal attributes so anyone viewing your Facebook page will get a true sense of the person you are.

“The idea of curating your digital footprint is right on target because it gets to the heart of the matter, which is that this is a new aspect of our reputation that we have to work at.” – Professor Nancy Rothbard, The Wharton School

Whether you are or will be applying to college, graduate school or a job, you will need to impress more than just the admissions office or human resources department. There are alumni, professors, current employees, managers and interviewers who will have a say in the final decision. These people will want to know more about you than what may be provided on your résumé, essay or application. These people will Google you. When they do, will your virtual narrative work in your favor?

Alan Katzman is a recognized authority on the importance of teaching students the effective and productive use of social media at all educational levels. Alan founded Social Assurity in 2013 to help students harness social media to curate digital portraits that reflect their true character and potential. Social Assurity offers a suite of interactive eCourses that teaches students how to use social media to effectively engage with colleges, communities and businesses while also building a rich and discoverable digital presence that accurately reflects their skills, interests and accomplishments.

Learn more about Social Assurity at

Categories: Business, Career Advice, Choosing A College, College & Career Advice, Job Advice, Tips For Finding A Job