You’re getting ready for a big interview: You’ve scoured the “About Us” page, ironed your suit jacket and checked out your interviewer’s credentials on LinkedIn. If you’ve spent this much time and energy preparing for the interview, you can be certain your potential employer has done the same.
Aside from your resume, plenty of information is available to employers about you, and it’s all online. This information may help employers make hiring decisions. In fact, 77 percent of organizations use social media to recruit candidates, and 20 percent use it to learn more about potential candidates. Instead of just laboring on about what not to do, let’s address the topic of your social media presence from both sides.
First thing’s first: Google yourself.
This helps you truly understand what others are seeing. Not getting you in the results? Put your name in quotes to help narrow the search. This should be easy if you have an uncommon name. If not, it will take some more digging.
Next, it’s time to build out your LinkedIn profile.
It may seem tedious, but LinkedIn is the quickest way for an employer to verify your professional identity. Make sure it not only matches your resume but also builds on it.
- Rich media is one of the key ways to do this, it helps the audience get a sense of your writing skills, graphic abilities, etc.; it tells a story that your paper resume simply cannot. If you don’t have a ton of work experience, highlight relevant school projects or papers (ones that received good, positive feedback). Try to steer clear of documents that exceed a few pages.
- A strong profile photo is important. Professionally taken images are ideal, a selfie (as long as it’s tasteful) is OK, but a cropped group shot has no place on LinkedIn. Don’t have a solo photo? Ask a friend to take one of you against a plain background.
- Customize your LinkedIn URL and put it on your business card.
- Never lie on your LinkedIn — it’s the easiest way to lose an opportunity.
Don’t just build out your profile; use LinkedIn to get what you want. Find individuals with backgrounds and job titles of interest, and see if you have any connections. Setting up informational interviews through LinkedIn’s email function is a great way to learn more about the company or organization you want to work for. It also shows initiative and may get your foot in the door.
Now take a look at your Facebook page.
Facebook is a great place to post pictures of an adorable puppy or connect with old friends, but if it’s not carefully curated, your profile may attract negative attention. Here are a few things to consider:
- Think your pictures are private? Double-check your privacy settings: Facebook’s graph search allows the general public to see certain tagged photos of you. It’s important to educate yourself on what others can see by going through your privacy settings, one by one.
- Never complain about your job, post pictures of you having fun on a “sick day” or make fun of your boss or team on Facebook. This should be obvious, but it happens a lot.
- What kinds of photos are appropriate for Facebook? Err on the side of caution: If you wouldn’t want your mother or grandmother to see it, it’s probably not suitable for a potential employer’s eyes.
Have a dream organization in mind? Follow it on Twitter.
- Don’t just follow it, engage it through tweeting or direct messages. If the organization is large enough, it may even have a separate Twitter account dedicated to recruitment.
- Consider creating a professional Twitter. Follow interesting companies; tweet thoughtful and meaningful content in line with your professional goals.
- Protect your personal Twitter by locking it and keeping your profile picture and header image appropriate. Remember, even if someone stumbles upon your protected Twitter, they can still see your profile’s images.
- To avoid someone confusing your personal and professional Twitter accounts, change your personal profile name (and handle) to something that isn’t closely related to your searchable name.
Most importantly: Don’t panic, just be aware of your online presence. Because you’ve been online for most of your life, it’s important to understand what your digital imprint is saying about you. Cleaning up content that doesn’t promote personal professionalism is a great starting point of a long and prosperous career.