This article was originally published on CharityVillage and has been shared with permission.
An employer looking up a potential hire online is nothing new. One of my university professors taught me this lesson the hard way when she went through our class list and pulled up some unlucky students’ Facebook and Twitter profiles on the presenter screen. (Mine were unfortunately included and evaluated by our class.) Since then, I’ve thought really strategically about the message I’m sending with everything I post online.
But recently, there’s been a major shift in how tightly intertwined our online and offline lives are. Social media is no longer just a hangout spot for college students – it’s become an extension of who we are. And if the last few months have taught us anything, it’s how central the digital world can be in our daily lives.
In a time where face-to-face interviews are off the table for the foreseeable future, it’s in any jobseeker’s best interest to take full advantage of the online real estate they have to make an impression. So, rather than locking down your profiles, use your digital presence to showcase your best self. Here are a few things you – or the clients and students you work with – can start doing now.
Clean up your social media profiles
Even if you’re not someone who’s consciously been building a digital brand, there’s a good chance you’re one of the 3.8 billion social media users online right now. Before you open up your social profiles to the world, it’s important to take a few factors into account to make them employer-friendly while also showcasing who you are.
- Beef up your bio: Whether your social platform of choice is Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or all of the above, it’s important to include a short bio to give anyone who comes across your profile an idea of who you are. While your LinkedIn bio, of course, will be geared more toward your professional accomplishments, don’t feel like you have to talk business in all of them. If you’re an avid gardener, home cook or photographer, state it! You never know where you’ll strike common ground with an employer.
- Consider your handle: I’m in full support of creative social media handles that show off your personality, but my challenge with them is that they can make you harder to find. While you’re on the job market, make sure your name clearly appears in your profile so employers can find you. If you decide to temporarily change your username to something more professional, I’d suggest making a second account to reserve your existing one. You can delete it afterward, but that way, you can ensure no one snatches it up.
- Update your profile photo: You don’t have to use a professional headshot as your profile photo to impress a potential employer. Just make sure your picture is well-lit, you’re dressed appropriately and you can see your face clearly. This is your chance for someone to quickly identify who you are, so save the shadowy silhouettes and action shots for your posts.
- Audit your posts: Anyone who’s been online for a while likely has hundreds (or thousands) of posts to sift through. That said, it’s unlikely anyone who lands on your profile will give it more than a couple of scrolls through, but it’s always good to be mindful of what you have online where anyone can find it. If you’re curious about digging up your own tweet history specifically, click the three dots next to the Twitter search bar to open up an Advanced Search. From there you can filter through your posts by date, keyword, or hashtag.
- Review the pages you follow: The pages you follow say almost as much about you as the content you post. Do a quick scroll through the accounts you’re following and make sure there isn’t anything in that list that’s profane or would raise eyebrows. Anything you’re publicly following is up for scrutiny.
Evaluate your overall web presence
If you have a personal blog, website or portfolio, you’ll want to make sure it’s up to date. This applies especially if you’ve made a career change and want to ensure your potential employer is seeing the most recent information about you, or if you used to keep a personal blog and are maybe no longer comfortable with your personal views being displayed online. If you’re leveraging a digital portfolio for the job you’re currently interviewing at, make sure your latest and greatest work is included.
Overhauling a website can be a lot of work though, especially if it’s been a while since it’s been updated. At the very least, put up a “coming soon” or “under construction” page in the interim while you’re on the job hunt.
Audit search results for your name
When was the last time you googled yourself? Search engines are constantly crawling the web so that they can show their users the most up-to-date information. It’s a good practice to search your name every once a while. If your name is common, search your name plus a distinguishing factor like industry or location.
In most cases, your social media profiles will appear first, which is why it’s important to ensure those are optimized. But take note of what else comes up. If there are any message board comments, forgotten accounts or other authored posts that are unprofessional, remove what you can control. If there’s content about you that’s defamatory, untrue or something you simply don’t like, reach out to the poster and ask them to remove it. You can also scroll down to the bottom of Google search results and hit “Send feedback” to ask Google to remove one of the results on that page.
Small changes can start today
Especially if this is new territory for you, don’t stress about giving your digital presence an extreme makeover overnight. But if you start taking these small considerations into account right now, you’ll be well on your way to crafting an impressive personal brand in no time. It takes only 1/10 of a second to form a first impression online. Make sure yours is a good one.
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