Is Your Social Media Hurting Your Job Search?

If there is one piece of advice we’d add to the evergreen advice to “Wear Sunscreen,” we would say:

“Dear Graduate – clean up your electronic footprint! That is all.”

Let us explain…

Once upon a time, a long time ago, before the Internet, new college graduates did some standard things as they approached graduation day: haunted the career center, wrote up a resume, bought appropriate work attire, pounded the pavement for work.

Some of that hasn’t changed. Rising seniors still haunt the career center, write up a resume, and buy appropriate work attire. But today, the networking begins well before you ever set foot in an office or come face-to-face with a real person. And a lot of it happens whether or not you actually initiate contact, courtesy of your social media and electronic footprint.

Your Facebook page, your twitter feed, that random comment you posted on some forum that you haven’t gone back to for years? How about the drunk tweets, hungover status updates, or goofy photos? They all feed into your online presence and tells prospective employers a fuller picture of you than what your formal resume provides.

Head in Hands

“Ugh! Did I say that? Really?!” 
(Photo courtesy of Alex E. Proimos)

And yes, employers are going to Google you before you walk into an interview. So here are things you need to do right away:

Google Alerts

If you can google others, they can google you too. And a google search on you will show up everywhere you’ve ever had an account, including that old Friendster account, the fun Tumblr page that got shared by the hundreds, the long rambling Quora conversation….all of it. See yourself as others see you and set up a google alert about yourself for yourself so you know what’s out there about you. Start now in the winter so that you have time to spring-clean your online presence and take down, fix, or address what is out there about you on the Internet in time for interview season later in the year.

Clean Up or Stand By Your Online Dirt

You can’t really delete anything on Twitter. Once it’s up there, it’s there forever as many a celebrity has found out. So all that trash talk from your 2 a.m. angry rants, those jokes about being gay (which may not be a joke at all to a hiring manager who might actually be gay), the incendiary political posts in the run-up to the election? Either be willing to stand by them or take down the account. As for Facebook, in addition to ongoing privacy changes, timeline has changed how everything shows up – if you haven’t updated your privacy settings of late, chances are every update you’ve ever put up there is up for review. Private messages too. Because here’s the kicker – you have freedom of speech, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without consequences, and it doesn’t help your case to press your rights if you’re the one looking for work.

Just a Little Googling

Everyone can google you. Even the kid next door. (Photo courtesy Glenn Fleishman)

Privacy Controls.

Know them and use them. Just like the non-existent “delete” key, there is no real privacy on the Internet. But if you’re bound and determined to be wild on the web, be sure that what you put up there isn’t open and immediately available to the public – aka, a recruiter or the person you’re going to apply to for a job. You have every right to the fullest legal extent of your electronic footprint. But you also have no one but yourself to blame if your hiring manager took one look at an ill-advised update and decided that it wasn’t simpatico with the job you hope to get.

Profile and Cover Photos

Everyone relates to a face. Which is why you’re always encouraged to upload a photo. And we do, in droves! But a lot of people upload the professional headshot to the LinkedIn page and forget entirely to clean up the other social media. So take stock of all your social media, and make sure that what you put up on the fun platforms doesn’t reflect poorly on you if a hiring manager finds it. Think about it, do you *really* think it makes a good first impression to have that photo of you shirtless, hungover, or flipping the camera? (The answer, btw, is a resounding NO.)

Connect Carefully

You’re probably already connected to those who will interview you or professionally interact with you on LinkedIn, which is a good thing. But the others? They’re trickier. With over 1 billion people on Facebook alone, chances are your boss, coworkers, hiring manager, and colleagues are also all on Facebook. And Twitter is open to all. You’re certainly under no obligation to friend anyone at work, but it can be beneficial. Just know that it’ll change the nature of your interactions with everyone else as well – after all, you can’t complain about the interminable HR meeting to your friends if the boss is also listening, right? By the way, this is also a good time to weed out or make private all the various pages and accounts you’ve liked or followed over the years.

Online resumes can be much more than words on a page or a linkedin profile.

Point The Way

Let’s say there’s a lot out there about you, some of it beyond your control – like that MySpace page you never took down and now can’t actually even get back into. Take control of your own story, and tell people where to go first. In addition to LinkedIn, there is about. me, visualize.me, and re.vu, sites that let you do more than share just your professional resume. Some job candidates even build their own full-out websites. You have a lot of options to present a fuller picture of yourself and put your best electronic foot forward. Take advantage of them!