Whether we like it or not, these days our activity on social media isn’t just for our own enjoyment. It’s also enabling our future employers to get the dirt on us if we aren’t careful.
In 2011, 36 per cent of Australian employers admitted to checking their job applicants’ profiles on Facebook before employing them. Even the smallest of companies have tools at their disposal to view all of your public online activity at the touch of a button. If you’ve made a controversial comment on a forum, they could find out about it in seconds.
In fact depending on the position, employers are even starting to ask for their applicants’ Facebook login details so they can have a good poke around – so much for your privacy settings. While you don’t legally have to hand these details over, in an increasingly tight work environment it’s unsurprising that some people are happy to hand them over in the hope of getting the upper hand.
So we need to start being a bit more conscious of our digital footprint. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:
First impressions count
A potential employer’s first impression of you will be the one that sticks. Just like you wouldn’t want them hearing an unprofessional voicemail message when calling for an interview, make sure you don’t have an unprofessional email address or profile photo on your social networks. Trust me, they will be looking at your networks. No matter how good your qualifications are, you’ll be fighting off that first impression throughout the entire interview process if the first thing they’ve seen of you is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in the day it wasn’t uncommon for people to stretch the truth in their CVs. These days it’s much harder with social networks like LinkedIn keeping your credentials in check.
Employers are guaranteed to cross reference your social media accounts, so if your CV says you worked as a marketing manager and your LinkedIn profile says you worked as a customer service representative, you’re in trouble. Remember, companies are looking to hire someone they can trust.
Don’t be a cultural misfit
Unless you want to be known for your partying antics and your extreme political views, don’t post those sorts of things online – at least not in a publicly viewable way. Companies like to know that you’ve got a life outside of your job, but they also need to know that you’ll fit in with your colleagues and the rest of the company. So if you’ve got a blog about how much you hate equal rights or an Instagram account showing off all of your drunken party photos, they might work against you.
Utilise your networks
If you want to keep Facebook private, but you’re concerned someone with an immaculate, freely accessible Facebook might get the upper hand, use a different social network like LinkedIn or Google+ (or better yet, create an online CV) to portray the kind of image you want your future boss to see. Then make sure you add it to the bottom of your resume. Hiring parties love to see you’ve shown the initiative and invited them to learn more about you.
Control your identity
If you’ve got a fairly common name like John Smith or David Jones, you don’t want to be mistaken for someone else when you’re trying to create an impression. To avoid this happening, make sure you put as much detail as you can into your social networks and include the same information in your CV. That way when your future employer and future colleagues inevitably start scoping out your online profiles they’ll be looking at John Smith with a law degree and an interest in astronomy, rather than John Smith who’s good friends with Centrelink and indulges a little too much on weekends.
As our world gets increasingly digital and we continue to create deeper digital footprints for ourselves, you really need to be aware of how you are representing yourself online. Landing a job isn’t as easy as dropping off a resume anymore. It can take a lot of work grooming your networks and your online identity, but in the end it usually makes the process of finding employment miles easier in the long run.
If you’ve got any tips to share, be sure to mention them in the comments.