Cleaning Up Your Social Media Image

By Marissa Kameno, graduate student at Quinnipiac University

These days, your Google search results page could mean as much (if not more) than your resume. Employers have access to a plethora of social media accounts and online profiles — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, the list goes on. And the sad truth is that at each stop, they are forming an opinion of you for better or worse often times before they will even call you in for an interview.

ID-10042886There is good news! Employers are just as likely to reject a candidate as they are to hire a candidate based on their social networking profile, according to a recent infograhic by Repplr.

So before you put your Facebook on lockdown, check out our tips for creating a employer-appropriate profile without sacrificing your social media presence.

Google Yourself
The best place to start when cleaning up your online reputation is right where employers start. Sign out of all social media accounts and do a quick Google search. See what profiles are the first hits contributing to your persona. For example, my Facebook has always been private, but my Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest are public profiles. I spend time focusing more of a professional effort there. This is also a chance to weed out accounts that aren’t adding any value. Remove your last name from such accounts to minimize their relevance to your name. Quora is just one example of a network that will allow you the choice as to whether to appear in search. It’s also not a bad idea to run this same exercise on Bing and Yahoo.

Note: Give the search engines a couple days to catch up with you. The changes won’t be implemented instantly.

There are various tools that applicants can utilize to enrich their online portfolio including about.me, which allows users to make mini micro-sites about themselves or WordPress.com, a blogging platform with easy-to-use customizable themes.

Solo cups Gotta Go
Whether you’re a college student searching for an internship or first job or a post-grad exploring new career opportunities, be the most careful about those obvious party pictures and references. Those albums that include phrases like “To the nights we’ll never remember” are easily hidden from non-friends. Dancing on tables, skimpy dresses and red Solo cups are obvious signs in the wrong direction. Employees have no interest in the fact that you’re Halloween costume consisted of lingerie and bunny ears. At the same time, albums from campus philanthropy events or trips to the beach are simply testaments to your personality. I’ve often heard that if all social networking profiles are private with information tightly concealed, it looks as though the candidate has something to hide. This same strategy MUST be applied to wall posts, tweets and other online commentary.

“Thanks to the power of public social media profiles, you can easily gauge how candidates conduct themselves in public. If your candidate is inappropriate and unprofessional on their social media profiles, those behaviors will likely translate to the office,” writes Sajjad Masud for the Huffington Post. Masud is the co-founder and CEO of recruiting software Simplicant.

Take this advice with a grain of salt depending on your industry. Teachers and other professionals working with children should be particularly cautious to clean up their profiles as teachers and parents are likely to come across them. Same goes for anyone who plans on adding fellow employees or clients.

Be Aware of What and When You’re Posting
Rule number one, keep the job commentary to a minimum. The last thing you want is for a potential employer to see you trashing your current internship. No one wants to be at work on a Friday. But employers will immediately lose interest if you’re most recent tweet reads “Spending my workday catching up on royal gossip.”

Instead, use that extra time at work (we all have it) to post industry news or interesting articles. According to a study by Repplr, the most listed reasons for employers hiring candidates based on their profiles was that the candidate’s profile was “creative” and “supported their professional qualifications.” Employers are also looking for candidates that are “well-rounded” and an “organizational fit.” Remember that. Don’t be afraid to be witty or fun if you’re applying to companies with a more relaxed atmosphere.

It’s important to remember that any of your friends or followers could provide networking opportunities and serve as your introduction to an employer.

“Aside from passively marketing their companies, recruiters are messaging prospects directly, getting introduced through connections and posting jobs in groups. They are using these networks to fish where the fish are,” wrote Dan Schawbel for Time.com. Schawbel is a career expert and author of “Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future.”

The bottom line
Clean up your social media profiles and remember that these are tools for building your online reputation as much as they are for connecting with friends. No need to put everything under lock and key, but it’s important to take some time to assess what persona you’re building.

Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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