By Shawn McGowan, JobsInME.com
A University of North Carolina study [PDF] revealed that 45 percent of employers polled used social media as a resource to screen candidates.
With Facebook at global center stage, what does your online identity say about you professionally? A poor personal brand can ruin a fantastic opportunity in a hurry.
What Not to Do
Obviously, posting inappropriate photos of yourself or your friends or posting rants that defame a former boss will not impress a scouting hiring manager. Even seemingly harmless information like outspoken philosophical, religious, or political views can cause doubt with a discerning recruiter who may not share your opinion. Tread lightly and leave controversial ideas out of the hiring equation.
Instead, let employers "catch you being good."
Here are four steps you can take to ensure you're seen in the best possible light by even the most inquisitive and thorough online career investigators:
1. Research Yourself
Search for your full name in several places and do it often.
- Google and Bing: Obviously, check the "big dogs" first. Scour the first few pages. Clean up any questionable material within a few clicks of these pages.
- "People Search" services: Pipl.com, 123people.com, Spokeo.com, and PeopleLookup.com. Check to see what they say about you.
I rediscovered my abandoned Mypace account this way. It had been so long since I had last logged in that I had forgotten my password and closed the email address it was attached to!
2. Create a Master List
Keep a running list of your public and searchable accounts. If you have a hard time recalling them all, focus on the search results above for starters.
3. Segment Your Accounts by Audience
Prioritize your online accounts and consider who can readily gain access to that content. You should have at least two buckets: personal and professional. Ask:
- Who is my network here comprised of?
- Who am I sharing my information with here and why?
- What type of content am I sharing here, and would I share it with my boss or co-workers?
4. Clean Up Your Room Before Mom Sees It
- Protect exclusive personal accounts and limit membership to a select few. Become knowledgeable on Facebook's privacy settings and those of other networks you belong to and share personal content on.
- Edit your forward facing content for mass consumption. Untag embarrassing college photos or ask that they be taken down altogether and set those F-bomb riddled blog posts to private.
- Delete derelict accounts. In the case of the aforementioned Myspace account, I decided it would be easier to delete it entirely than to edit or protect material I no longer needed or cared about.
When in doubt, err on the side of privacy. It's sort of like building a fence or pulling down the shade that faces the nosey neighbor. Take these steps and your online presence will be ready for that open house in no time.