Prospective employers want to see if your digital presence is as impressive as your job application - or not. If your activity online has been more about social and less about networking, it’s not too late to clean up your image and present potential employers with an applicant they can’t resist. With tips on:
- What recruiters and employers are looking for
- Cleaning up your digital footprint
- Making the most of LinkedIn
Free download in PDF format.
“So what are recruiters doing when they check out your digital footprint? They’re using the web to assess your ability and character outside the restrictions of the traditional interview process.”
Employers are changing the way they search for new recruits. Today your social media accounts and personal blogs are just as important as your resume, so your digital footprint could be the difference between an interview or rejection. Are you making the right impression, or does your online presence feel like an embarrassing tattoo? If you want to complete the transformation from graduate to professional, it might be time to reassess your web profile - and create the most employable version of yourself.
Applying for graduate jobs has never been easy. But the evolution of the social web has made it more complicated than ever. Recruiters are now researching candidates online long before they ever get to an interview, so it’s vital that they like what they find.
Your digital presence matters when making the transition from student to professional. A strong online profile can signal to potential employers that you’re the right person for the job; a weak or nonexistent online profile might lead them to move on to the next candidate.
So what are recruiters doing when they check out your digital footprint? They’re using the web to assess your ability and character outside the restrictions of the traditional interview process. Potential employers want to learn more about your skills, qualifications and experience. They might want to see professional insight, connections, and a portfolio of work.
Prospective employers take to the internet to see if you present yourself professionally. Would you be a good fit for the company culture? The people that endorse and recommend you on social networks can be just as crucial as your official references.
Recruiters are also looking for reasons not to hire you. Be under no illusions: a bad digital footprint can make or break a job application. And for many aspiring professionals, a combination of neglected privacy settings and years of carefree online posting as students have made them effectively unemployable.
But don’t panic! Those frat party photos on Facebook don’t need to haunt you forever. And it’s not too late to build a credible professional profile. Here’s how to clean up your digital presence and create a strong, lasting impression online.
How does your digital footprint influence recruiters when they investigate you online? The good news is that 29% find something positive that contributes to hiring the candidate. The bad news is that 34% find information that causes them not to hire a candidate.
Around 37% of companies admit they use the web to research job candidates. But what are they actually looking at? Here’s where recruiters go after they’ve read your initial application...
Prospective employers take to the internet to see if you present yourself professionally. Recruiters are also looking for reasons not to hire you. Be under no illusions: a bad digital footprint can make or break a job application.
Statistics taken from a 2012 US survey of 2,300 recruiters and HR professionals by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder.
Search for yourself
You want to know what recruiters find when they look for you. Search results are influenced by your browsing history, so clear your cache and log out of all your account profiles before you search for yourself.
Review the results for your name, but don’t bother going more than a few pages deep. What are your initial impressions? Results can also vary on different search engines, so use a mix of Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Hide and delete
Do any of your social media profiles make you look unprofessional? Be sure to hide or delete any offensive or embarrassing photos and posts. Think about how ‘hilarious’ posts might be interpreted by recruiters who don’t know you.
Reevaluate all the people and organizations you follow, Pages you Like, Groups you belong to and Lists you subscribe to. It might be time to selectively manage your social connections and memberships.
Systematically go through your different social accounts adjusting privacy settings and limiting any sensitive information you’re giving up. Decide which social network posts you want to be public or private (although assume anything could end up in the public domain).
Look through your search results for dormant blog profiles, article posts and messageboard posts you’ve forgotten about. It may be best to delete old, inactive accounts that clutter up your search results. If you don’t control the sites contact the editors or admins to remove the content.
One of the first things a recruiter does when your application lands on their desk is check out your LinkedIn account. The internet seems to have decided that LinkedIn should be everybody’s default professional account, and it’s now the go-to place to promote yourself, find jobs and make new professional connections.
A strong and well-crafted profile on the site tells recruiters that you understand the importance of presenting yourself professionally. But having a weak, messy or empty LinkedIn account will underwhelm potential employers. And not being on LinkedIn could undermine your credibility as a candidate.
Why is it so crucial to blow recruiters away on LinkedIn? Haven’t you already sent them your resume? Comparing a resume to LinkedIn is like comparing an analogue phone to a smartphone; LinkedIn is interactive and can tell recruiters far more about you than one or two sheets of paper; it lets recruiters see if your posts, groups, endorsements and recommendations support your application.
In a short space of time LinkedIn has grown from a niche social network into the most important professional network on the planet. If you want to be taken seriously by recruiters, you need a profile - and a good one.
Crafting a good LinkedIn presence isn’t that hard. Upload a clear, professional headshot and keep your summary clear and concise. Don’t use jargon or esoteric industry language. When you write about your experience, follow the ‘show, don’t tell’ principle and avoid adjectives and hyperbole. And be honest about your qualifications and achievements.
But without social engagement your LinkedIn is little better than a CV. The best way to build up ‘social proof’ is to be generous yourself: join groups; connect to people; endorse their skills and write recommendations for them; Like, share and comment on your connections’ posts.
Finally, be sure to post interesting and relevant things yourself, and remember to keep updating your LinkedIn with new skills and accomplishments.
So you’ve cleaned up your act and created a winning LinkedIn profile. How do you now craft the footprint of a digitally engaged professional and convince recruiters you’re the complete package?
Upload the same professional-looking headshot to all your social media accounts. Set the image as your Gravatar and use it for Google Authorship too.
Edit all your social network bios, locations and interests so that they’re consistent and read professionally. Make sure the content and tone is relevant for the industry you’re keen to join.
Follow the right individuals and organisations for the job you’re interested in. Follow and share the posts of industry thought leaders and successful businesses. Create your own lists and groups. Follow the company you want to join and engage with their posts.
Demonstrate to recruiters that you’re digitally engaged in their industry by posting timely, insightful and relevant opinions, and sharing awesome content you’ve found. Use strict quality control; try to avoid reactionary updates, and proofread everything before posting.
Create a nameplate domain on WordPress or Tumblr and use it as a portfolio or blog to showcase your best work, interests and personality. Sites like Seelio work great for showcasing student project work. You could even start posting your own think-piece blog posts to show your working knowledge or passion for the industry.
Now that you’ve actually got the job, what should you start or continue doing online when you actually get hired? And what should you avoid?
Things to do
- Continue developing your professional footprint - stay engaged and make sure you’re aware of any industry news, developments and trends.
- Push yourself to learn everything about your new professional role; use your newfound knowledge to build a reputation in the industry.
- Segment your friends from bosses, colleagues and connections on your social media profiles.
- Find out if your employers have a social media policy. If they don’t, get a feel for what level of social media use is appropriate within the company culture.
- Try to figure out the social network etiquette at work - does everyone automatically Friend everyone else on Facebook or do you have to ‘earn’ it?
- Segment your friends from bosses, colleagues and connections on your social media profiles.
- Remember that your company may consider you to be ‘representing’ them even on personal social accounts outside work hours. Be careful about posts that could reflect negatively on your employers or jeopardize your job.
Things to avoid
- Let your momentum grind to a halt. Make sure you don’t neglect your shiny new online persona and become digitally stagnant.
- Lapse back into old habits by posting unprofessional, reactionary thoughts or sharing inappropriate content - especially if your boss is following you.
- Get drawn into controversial debates on Facebook or Twitter - especially if it’s about your new profession or with a co-worker.
- Post updates or comments you know some colleagues might find offensive - even if you’re not connected to them. They could easily hear about it.
- Mix up work and personal social media accounts. It’s easy to switch between corporate and individual profiles, so be sure to avoid posting personal views as a company status update!
- Get carried away posting photos or videos taken at work - you might accidentally be sharing sensitive or confidential information.
You’re now ready to make the transition from digital student to digital professional. And as you can see, it’s not that scary. Just think of it as a new thing you need to get right to land a job, in addition to the application and interview. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is not to sanitize your digital footprint - don’t stop being the interesting, engaging and creative person that people want to hire!
With a few tips, you can make the experience even better for everyone concerned.