Come on, be honest. Have you ever:
- Made a crude, albeit funny, comment on a Facebook friend's wall?
- Posted a picture of yourself enjoying cocktails at a party?
- Tweeted something snarky out of frustration or anger?
In and of themselves, these aren't bad things – unless you're looking for a job, that is.
Like it or not, hiring managers rely on social networks to screen candidates. In fact, almost half (47%) of today's recruiters use social media to vet candidates – before they ever speak with them. What's more, a 2014 study by CareerBuilder showed that over half (51%) of employers who use social media to research candidates passed on an applicant because of content they found online.
It's important to remember that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are highly searchable, so they appear at or near the top of search engine results. To keep yourself in contention for the best jobs, use these tips to keep track of your digital footprint and manage your online reputation:
- Google, Bing!, Yahoo and Ask yourself. Egosurfing isn't vain – it's a necessity. Search your name, using multiple strings and search engines, to catch potential "data spills" – information, videos or photos that are outdated, inaccurate or that you just don't want in the public eye.
- Think beyond your name. In addition to what you post online, employers also pay attention to your "extended digital footprint." Consider the pages you've liked, the groups you've joined and the people, organizations or associations you may be connected with online. If something could be misconstrued or misinterpreted, consider severing the online connection (or at least hiding it from the general public).
- Clean up after yourself. Once you have a handle on what employers may find, get rid of what you don't want them to see. Delete old profiles or inappropriate pictures. Remove questionable comments, posts or tweets. Make sure all of your contact information is correct on each of the social sites you use. And if you can't personally delete content, reach out to the person who posted it or the site administrator to see what your removal options are.
- Managing privacy settings. Before you post, tweet or upload, get your privacy settings in order. With a simple search, you can get step-by-step instructions for managing your settings on each site you use.
- Make social media work FOR you. Refreshing professional profiles keeps you on a hiring manager's radar. Regularly post updates about projects you're working on, new responsibilities you've assumed or timely articles related to your industry.
- Use common sense. The internet is forever. Even "deleted" information is often recoverable online by a sufficiently determined searcher. As a rule, never argue online or post inappropriate comments or photos.
Today's search-savvy recruiters will likely be checking you out online. Make sure you show them exactly – and only – what they should see when it comes to the professional you, by proactively managing your online reputation.
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