Do you think that negative comment you made on Facebook about your previous employer isn’t a big deal, or that photo of you and your friends drinking at a college party five years ago will be viewed as “just the typical college student?” Guess again. Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
In today’s world, universities, potential employers, volunteer coordinators and others are using social media and online searches as effective tools in the hiring and acceptance process. While references and background checks are still used for screening purposes, employers are turning to the digital world to retrieve a more in-depth look at potential employees.
According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2016, 60 percent of employers used social media to research candidates in the hiring process. Jama Thurman, Hodges University’s manager of counseling and career services, explains, “Prospective employers learn about you through your internet postings and current employers can be informed of questionable and negative postings.” In her article, “10 Social Media Mistakes that Can Cost you Your Job,” Thurman goes on to say, “If you want to be recognized as a knowledgeable professional, your social media posts need to reflect professionalism.”
- Don’t talk negatively about a current/former employer in person or online.
- Be cautions of engaging in political/current event topics as it can lead to verbal attacks.
- Be mindful of the personal information you post (i.e. personal drama).
- Don’t post photos of drinking/drug use.
- THINK BEFORE YOU POST
When it comes to posting online, whether it is via social media, a blog or a website forum, the words “Internet” and “Delete” are best not to be used in the same sentence. It is difficult to get away from news stories surrounding inappropriate, negative and threatening activity occurring on the Internet. From local high school and college students to politicians, the Internet knows no age when it comes to exposing the public and sometimes private online activities of individuals.
Logan Wallick, people and culture manager for Suffolk Construction and president-elect of the Society for Human Resource Management of Southwest Florida (SHRM SWFL), says, “Think twice before you publish or post – even though you might go back and delete it, chances are someone saw it in their newsfeed or inbox and will recall it. Keep posts positive and informative, and save the negative for in-person discussions.”
As social media outlets become more of a platform for venting about current events, life and/or work, it opens the door for heated debates and personal attacks. When positioned behind a keyboard, the chances of maintaining a calm demeanor lessen.
As Kim Upton, director of human resources at Hodges University, explains, “Keep your personal opinions about your employer professional. You can state on a site such as Glassdoor.com that you do not like an employer’s practices, but do not accuse them of breaking any laws. There are two sides to every story, and if you think they broke the law, get an attorney, but do not make accusations online.” This rule of thumb applies not only to individuals who are currently employed, but also to job seekers.
While human resource professionals and hiring managers must follow appropriate laws and regulations when considering potential candidates for a position, it can be difficult to “unsee” information found online. Wallick adds, “Offensive photos and posts that go against the company’s policies or diversity initiatives,” could lead to a candidate’s removal from consideration.
For individuals currently employed or job seekers in the interview process, employers may address questionable social media activity. If or when this occurs, Lourdes Araujo, counseling and disability support manager for Hodges University, suggests, “Take responsibility and provide the employer with reasoning behind the questionable content. It is important that if you are questioned, explain how you learned from your experience.”
- Google alerts will help you to monitor your online presence.
- Include a professional photo, resume and work samples on your professional profiles.
- Build a personal blog/website to showcase your skills, talents and brand.
- Connect with industry leaders and companies to build your professional network, but be mindful when accepting friend requests. Remember, you may be connected to former colleagues who could serve as a positive reference or potential hindrance in future job searches.
- Incorporate community interaction into your posts (i.e. volunteer efforts).
At this point, it seems easy to conclude that posting or commenting online is a bad idea and should be avoided at all cost. However, maintaining a positive online profile can be beneficial and advantageous for job seekers. For instance, creating a profile on a website such as LinkedIn or maintaining a personal blog and/or website are great ways for future employers to notice an individual’s profile and “brand.”
“It’s all about selling yourself,” said Araujo. “You’re essentially branding yourself, and what you put out there is what everyone is going to remember about you.”
When creating online professional profiles, it is important to remember a professional head shot photo and resume are essential additions to attracting a potential employer. Tom Pear, professor at Hodges University, explains the benefits of professional profiles, saying, “I recommended using sites such as Xing, Viadeo or Linkedin, and using other sites such as Behance.net or Carbonmade.com that allow users to create portfolios showcasing work samples.”
Whether it is an online portfolio, personal blog or website, highlighting professional skills and qualities, discussing industry-related topics, and providing research and ideas are effective and creative additions to any resume.
In addition to the “brand” created when building a professional online profile, it is a great opportunity for job seekers to network with companies and industry leaders. Thurman explains, “Social media can be used in a productive way to build your career. You can “follow” or “like” certain industries, companies and professional groups related to your degree…Also, connect with your professors, staff and fellow students on social media to enhance your professional network.”
In July 2016, Amber Leigh Turner, owner and creative director of January Creative in Nashville, Tennessee, authored an article for Sitepoint.com, which detailed a list of 20 different social media sites offering job seekers the opportunity to network, promote and learn from professionals in various industries.
It is also important to remember that maintaining an online presence comes with safety concerns. Carrie Kerskie, Hodges University’s director of the Identity Fraud Institute, shares valuable information regarding the safety and security of online profiles.
- Fraudulent Job Offers and Emails. Be careful of fraudulent job postings or offers as it could be a website created to obtain your personal information or gain access to your bank or credit card accounts. The same goes for emails. If you receive an unexpected job offer via email, one that you did not apply for, do not click on any links or attachments until you have verified the email is legitimate.
- Sensitive Information. Most employers will not ask you to provide your social security number until after you have received a job offer, and this is only after you have interviewed and met with your prospective employer. If you are asked to send your sensitive information by email, you should send it encrypted so it cannot be intercepted.
- Consistency. It is crucial that your online and offline identities match. More and more companies are searching job candidates online before making a job offer. If you present yourself to be a professional but your online identity is the opposite, it could end up costing you the job offer.
- Keep it Professional. Having an online profile could help you find a job that you might have never found on your own. It can also help companies find you. Just remember to keep it professional.