I was fortunate to go to college and start my career prior to the onslaught of social media that permeates our world today. I remember how exciting it was when Miami students could register for a Facebook profile, because in 2008 you had to have a “.edu” email address from supported universities to join Facebook. The platform retained that exclusivity, and thus retained its cache for me, throughout my college experience. For my four years of college, social media and my internet presence was concentrated within the quasi-protected confines of Facebook. This was true for most of my peers, as well, though some people were starting to branch out into blogging. The thought of auditing my online presence and social media accounts before recruiting season never occurred to me because there was nothing to find, and recruiters were not looking for me on these platforms. Instead, my personal brand started and stopped with the interactions I had in person, phone, and via email with potential employers.
Over the past decade, the advent of multiple social media platforms that enable us to share the details of who we are on the internet has transformed our daily lives. From the way we communicate with other people to how we share ideas and information, the internet has created a platform for people to share, comment, and present themselves and their ideas to the world. With these platforms comes the opportunity to enhance ones’ professional network and growth opportunities by connecting with people online who you never would have the opportunity to connect with in person. But, social media can also work against you - along with Linked In, 70% of employers are reviewing candidates’ other social media accounts including Facebook and Twitter as well as searching for you via Google, Yahoo, or Bing. This data also noted that 54% of employers found information online that caused them not to hire a candidate.
I was shocked to see how many people lost job opportunities due to their online presence, though I in my experience I think the internet creates a greater level of comfort where people have the freedom and courage to share content that they may not share in real life. The internet also never forgets, and old content can be unearthed by curious companies and recruiters who want to validate a hiring decision.
What are these companies and recruiters looking for? A few things, including, but not limited to:
Alignment between how you’ve described yourself on your resume, your interviews, and your online presence
Confirmation of your qualifications for the role
Use of/savviness with social media for marketing and social media-related jobs
Inappropriate content from you or what others have posted about you, including photos and comments
How should you respond?
The best approach is to be proactive, being as intentional about your social media presence and online brand as you are about other areas of your life. If you have some opportunities to improve your online brand, the best place to start is by auditing your online presence to clean up any questionable content and then filtering all new content moving forward.
Set your personal social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter) to the highest level of privacy available. This will minimize the number of people who can view, tag, comment, and view your information.
Review your network of connections on personal social media accounts to ensure you know and trust the people with whom you are connected. Remove anyone who has not helped position you positively in the past online as well as people you do not know or do not trust
Review the media you have uploaded or are tagged in and delete anything that may be perceived negatively by a potential employer. This could include photos, videos, comments, and accounts or interests you are following.
Google your name to see what information comes up. Remove any negative content that you control and request that others do the same, as needed.
Review and rationalize who you add as connections to your personal social media accounts. Do you know each person in real life? Are they trustworthy? Do they portray you positively online?
Exercise caution with the content you post on your accounts, including photos, comments, and likes/shares. Avoid sharing or being tagged in content with polarizing viewpoints, personal details about your life/daily routine, and negative language as well as photos or other media that may be perceived negatively by a potential employer.
Optimize your LinkedIn profile. While this is not the only source for curious employers searching for information about your, it is a common place for someone to make an initial connection with you. Take the time to make sure your profile is an accurate representation of your qualifications, skills, and experience. I’ll be posting next week about how to refresh your LinkedIn page to accomplish this.
Create (optional) professional social media accounts for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that showcase your brand, especially if you are working in an industry or within a digital media function that looks for these skills. This will help round out your professional online presence beyond LinkedIn and showcase your ability to engage with a virtual audience professionally. I’ll share more about how to do this in the next few weeks.
Today, your personal brand spans many outlets, including your online presence. While it creates more work to manage each account, being mindful of your online brand may bolster your career opportunities.