Job Hunting in the Social Media Age: Why Your Online Footprint Matters

It used to be that your well-crafted resume and a pithy cover letter formed the ‘window’ through which prospective employers viewed your suitability as a candidate. Then, as technology expanded, recruiters got more resourceful. They grew wise to the fact that they could quickly seek out the skeletons in candidates’ closets with a mere internet search. Often times, this has been to the dismay of those who, minutes before, seemed quite promising on paper.

Power has subtly shifted. Whereas before, the candidate chose how to present themselves, the recruiter now treasure hunts the depths of the web, seeking out lurking issues. It can end up feeling like the recruiter is rooting though the candidate’s dirty linen.

Learn More: What Style of Resume is Right For You?

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your online footprint matters when you’re looking for a new job — and luckily, you can control it. Here’s how:

Understand your current footprint

To get started, you need to know what recruiters see when they Google your name. As narcissistic as it may seem, you need to spend a bit of time searching for yourself online to understand your current footprint.

Start with a simple Google search of your name, looking at both text references and images. You’re likely to pull up any social media channels you use, so have a look for these as well as any references to your name elsewhere. It can help to first log out of your social media accounts, such as Facebook. This way, you can get a more accurate idea of what can be seen by others, according to your privacy settings.

Obviously, the more unusual your name, the easier it is to track you down. If you have a more common name, then add in some of the keywords an employer might use to find you. Start with the obvious ones, such as your location or job title.

Look at where your name pops up, then consider the potential impact on an employer. Positive attention, such as college reports detailing your sports or academic successes are good. Court reports, less so.

If there are damaging references online, chances are that you will not be able to remove them. However, simply knowing that they might show up allows you to better manage the situation. Have a plan for how to address it, if a recruiter raises the issue.

Be Prepared: 10 Tricky Interview Questions and How to Answer Them

Manage your brand

So now you know what your online footprint looks like. It’s time to start managing your brand, with a quick review and ‘clean up.’

Usually, a good place to start is with social media, a crucial tool in today’s job search. Look at the security and sharing settings on Facebook, and also on any defunct accounts bearing your name. Unless you use your Facebook account for professional relationships, keep your sharing to a minimum. Make sure that any visible profile pictures are appropriate and professional.

Spring clean your Twitter feed if there are any posts you might regret (or if you’ve ever been hacked). Deleting posts is actually quite easy — check out this article for an explanation.

From a professional perspective, the most important social media channel is LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is up to date, and your picture appropriate.

Taking these steps, at a bare minimum, should result in a recruiter finding a healthy enough online footprint, with no cause for alarm. However, if you really want to make an impact, you need to go further.

Build a relevant online professional history

Clearing up your web trail should mean that there is nothing on the internet that can work against you. But if you want your footprint to actively work for your benefit, you need to make sure your online history covers the right professional bases.

Try these approaches to build the best professional online history:

  • Share, like, and comment on relevant professional articles, such as those on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that are related to your field of work. Not only is this good networking, but your interviewer might also be active in the group.
  • Find and follow industry commentators on Twitter or with their own blogs. Become involved in the discussion, and offer personal and insightful ideas through your comments.
  • Write for industry publications or blogs — or even start your own relevant blog platform if you are particularly fond of writing. You could write opinion pieces, or offer to cover conferences or seminars you attend as a guest writer.
  • Share your work if permitted to do so using SlideShare. This makes your opinion immediately searchable, with no extra effort needed.
  • Create your own website to host your resume, portfolio, and work history. Make sure it echoes your personal brand and is professionally designed.

Your online history matters in job hunting. It is your opportunity to take the initiative, and positively influence the version of ‘you’ that the recruiting manager sees. If you are struggling to get traction in your job search and cannot figure out why, maybe it is time to address your web footprint. Make sure it shows your best professional self.

Start with these simple ideas to give your job hunt the boost it needs!

Over to you — how has your online footprint helped (or hindered) your job search? What actions have you taken to make your online history work in your favor?

Topics: Careers

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