Do you post on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter, or share on Instagram? Chances are, you have at least one social media account. Perhaps you have a blog or a YouTube channel that’s a sort of personal journal? Wherever you have a profile online, there’s a treasure trove (or perhaps a Pandora’s Box!) of information about you ready to be discovered by a prospective employer.
We’ve all posted something online we find a bit embarrassing or regret, and some things we definitely wouldn’t want our boss to see!
But there’s a difference between photos of your seven-year-old self with a cringey bowl-cut, and the images of the aftermath of a drunken night out littering your timeline - only one of these could cost you a job.
Yes, it’s the drunken pics.
Online profiles aren’t so private
Your online personal blog isn’t private like a diary hidden under your mattress, and your Facebook photos you’ve shared only with your friends aren’t necessarily accessible just to them.
However private you set your online profiles to be, there are no guarantees. Once something is on the internet it’s there forever, and how accessible it is to other people, is out of your control.
Would an employer really go to the trouble of finding your online profiles?
An employer is investing a significant amount of time, work and money into recruiting the ideal candidate for a job. Then paying for the salary, training, pension and all the other expenses that come along with employing a candidate.
They will definitely take the time to Google your name and check out your online profiles and activities!
Research shows that the majority of employers check the social media content of prospective employees and some hire specialist agencies to research the online profiles of candidates. It’s now a normal part of the recruitment process and done as a matter of course.
Career Builder conducted a survey and found that 70% of employers use social media to research job applicants.
Remember, it’s not just during the application process that you need to be mindful of what your online profiles say about you, 34% of employers have reprimanded or fired an employee as a result of content found online.
Does it matter if a prospective employer can see your profiles, they’re personal profiles, after all?
Personal or not, if they’re in the public domain and would reflect on the company that employs you, they’re a prospective employer’s business.
But does it really matter that there’s a video on Facebook of you at a friend’s birthday party drunk dancing to Rihanna, because that was ages ago…? Or that rant you posted on your blog about how awful your old boss was - that was hilarious!
A prospective employer probably won’t see it that way.
They may be reminders of your teenage antics, and a well-written critique filled with funnies to you, but a potential employer will view them differently.
An employer doesn’t want to hire someone who appears to behave irresponsibly, shows a lack of professionalism or demonstrates disloyalty to a former employer. This looks like someone who could be a potential liability to the company.
If an employer is choosing between three equally qualified candidates and one of them has some questionable online profiles or activity, one of them has a neutral online presence, and the other has a professional blog, it’s more than likely an employer will select the candidate with the professional blog.
What employers do and don’t want to see in your online profiles
What you put online could cost you a job opportunity, but, it can also be a significant factor in a prospective employer’s decision to hire you!
Vlogging about a skill or passion, writing reviews of films or TV programmes, Instagramming the results of your painting or woodwork classes are all great things to share online for your prospective employer to see.
It’s about knowing what employers DO and DON’T want to see.
What employers DO want to see in your online profiles:
Information that supports the professional qualifications and achievements stated in your CV - photos of your graduation? Great to share!
Your personality would fit well with the company - applying for a job at a company that has an outgoing and activity-filled company culture? Share your videos of taking part in a charity fun-run with friends!
You have a professional image and behave in a professional way - no drunk dancing here.
A wide range of interests - do you have a passion for running or reading? Don’t be shy about sharing your best times or your latest read.
Great communication skills - keep exchanges respectful and no swears.
Creativity - love writing short stories or painting? Excellent! Share your work.
What employers definitely DON’T want to see in your online profiles:
Photos or information about drinking or taking drugs - even if it was a long time ago, these are NSFW, or the application process!
Inappropriate, risque photographs or videos - if you’re only wearing your undies or less, keep those pics to yourself.
Lies about qualifications and achievements - an absolute no-no and this could get you in serious trouble.
Links to criminal behaviour - No, Absolutely not. No.
Unprofessional screen names and email addresses. - @SeymourButz may have been funny at one time or another (questionable), but it’s definitely time to ditch it.
Complaints or rude comments about a previous employer or company - keep it positive or keep quiet.
Sharing confidential information about a previous employer or company - another absolute no-no. You could be in breach of your former contract and this will certainly put any potential employer off you.
Before you share anything online, think about whether or not you would mind if your boss or prospective boss sees it.
Should you have a spring clean?
If you're worried about what a prospective employer might find on your online profiles, have yourself a spring clean!
Give yourself a Google
Check what is most easily found and delete as necessary.
Profile pics and cover photos
However private you set your profiles to be, it’s likely these are still visible to the public. Make sure they create a good impression rather than a knot in your stomach at the idea of an employer seeing them.
Blogs, vlogs and status updates
It’s great to have a professional looking blog, particularly if it’s relevant to your prospective employer’s industry. But if it’s more of ranting, stream of consciousness, it’s probably best to take it down. Same for vlogs and it might be a good idea to delete any moany status updates too.
Double check you’ve deleted that dormant MySpace account you set up way back when, and any other profiles you don’t use anymore.
Make your online profiles work for you and stand out from the competition
Your online profiles can have a big influence on your job prospects. Take advantage of having online profiles by using them to sell yourself to prospective employers. Make sure all your online profiles represent you in a positive light and you’ll be on the right track to ace the application process!
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