Ten years ago, a CV and cover letter would suffice to showcase your skills and abilities to prospective employers – but in today’s online world, your ‘digital footprint’ can both help and hinder your job hunt.
According to a survey by CareerBuilder, a staggering 70% of employers use social media and online search engines to research job applicants – making sure your online presence shows you in a positive light is crucial when applying for jobs.
From your social media profiles to your blog, or even that bad review you left on TripAdvisor - your digital footprint is essentially the traces or "footprints" that you have left online. Given how easy it is to search by using someone’s name or email address, it’s a good idea to regularly check your online presence before you even start applying.
It’s important to understand what employers can see about you and your activities online, and update your online profiles in order to ensure you’ve left a positive digital footprint. This is your career we’re talking about, so you have to make sure you’re doing it right.
Before anything, you should start by doing a Google search on your name and email address and see what comes up in the first few pages. You should also log out of your social media accounts and then search for your name and see what can be seen by the public.
If you live a teetotal lifestyle, are politically neutral, dress well and always have perfect grammar – then you’re all set! But – if you’re an average Joe like the rest of us, you might need to do some damage control. Put yourself in the shoes of a HR Manager or a Recruiter – do you see anything that you feel will lessen your chances of getting an interview? Photos of yourself heavily inebriated and wearing inappropriate clothing, statuses with overly political views, or even posts criticising previous employers are major red flags, so remove this content or adjust your account settings to make sure that the public will only see what you want them to see.
Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, make sure you review your privacy settings and that everything is set to private so that only your approved audience can see your posts. It might be worth deleting any images or posts you feel may be compromising, even if they are set to private – for peace of mind. You never know who might be connected to an approved audience member of your profile.
Once you have the basics covered, including accuracy with spelling and grammar in your profiles and posts, and updated key information about you, your contact details and current or past work history, make sure you follow these guidelines to ensure best practice going forward:
Ensure that the language you use in your digital profiles and online posts are professional, and appropriate for a future boss or colleague to read. Be consistent, truthful and factual – there’s nothing worse than being caught in a lie.
Ask a friend or colleague to look at your profile, including looking at your profile picture – would they recruit you based on it? If not, ask for honest feedback and make adjustments.
You can’t control other people’s privacy settings so whatever they tag or mention you on could easily be seen by anyone. You can enable approval rights when you’re tagged in other people’s posts or photos, so they don’t automatically appear on your timeline unless you’ve reviewed and approved them.
Is your old Bebo account from the Noughties still open? You may have to face some cringeworthy content from your teens whilst closing your old accounts, but there’s no point having it visible if it’s not up to date and not reflective of you as the person you've grown to be.
If you write a personal blog that you’d rather keep private, it might be a good idea to do it anonymously. There are a number of options available that will allow you to express yourself without damaging your future prospects. You can use an anonymous email account such as Hush, which will provide an encrypted email account to register your blog. An anonymous domain name is also good place to start and you can still let your friends and family know, but this way it still keeps it anonymous to the public.
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