At our recent ‘What Employers Want’ event, run on campus by Accenture, we heard about the importance of managing your online presence (sometimes called digital footprint).
Some employers will search for candidates online to find out more information about them, before deciding who to take to interview. There are plenty of places an employer could look:
- Profiles on Facebook,Twitter or LinkedIn.
- Discussion boards, blogs, or articles you may have contributed to or featured in.
- Photographs that you, your friends or family have posted online.
Once information is out there, it’s there for good, so it’s important to think carefully about what you’re sharing. A simple way to find out what’s out there already is to search for yourself on Google. Put simply, if you can find information about you online, then so can an employer!
What should you avoid?
- Unprofessional profile pictures.
- Inappropriate posts or comments, including anything racist, sexist or homophobic, bad language, or anything negative about an employer or colleague (there are plenty of stories of people being fired for this, even before they’ve started the job!).
- Photos from drunken nights out.
- Complaining about university work or negative comments about lecturers and classmates.
- Inappropriate Twitter handles – think what your name says about you.
Of course, if an employer searches for you online and there is no record of you whatsoever, this also may seem a bit odd! Whilst there are things to avoid, there is much to gain from having an online presence:
- Networking: Twitter makes it acceptable to follow people online that you don’t already know, meaning you can engage with key people/companies, and hear about opportunities as they arise.
- Promoting your personal brand: Employers like to see that you are motivated and passionate about their industry. Getting involved in discussions and online Q&As is a good way of demonstrating your interest.
- Demonstrating your writing ability: Writing a blog shows your interest in a particular subject or industry, whilst also highlighting your writing skills (particularly important if you’re interested in a career such as journalism).
But it’s important to make sure content associated with your name is something you will be happy for employers to see.
What can you do?
- Have a professional image – your profile picture is your first chance to make an impression, so think about what the picture says to a potential employer.
- Protect your privacy on Facebook by adjusting your account settings – make sure that you only share sensitive information with specific friends, prevent others from tagging you in photos, and view your profile page as another person to see what effect your privacy settings have had. For more information, see here.
- You could create an alias for your personal profile, so that it doesn’t come up in searches for your name.
- Start posting great content – share relevant articles, engage in discussion, and post examples of your work, achievements and interests.
- On Twitter, you can set your tweets to public or private – information here – however it could be easier to just set up a new profile for professional purposes, so that your good work in developing your personal brand won’t be hidden from employers.
On the flip side, if you don’t yet have an online presence, now is a good time to start. Check out the links below for further advice on developing your online profile effectively.
- Effective networking using LinkedIn and social media
- How social media can help you get that job!
- Don’t ruin your career in 140 characters
- Using LinkedIn to network