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Is your digital footprint damaging your career chances?



Have you ever tried to Google yourself? What did you find? Photographs of an old work event? Images posted to your Facebook page? A comment someone wrote about you in an article? Was any of the content questionable?


If there is one thing you can be sure of (apart from death and taxes), it's that a prospective employer WILL Google you as part of their due diligence process. They will look for articles, accounts, and photographs. They will trawl through your Instagram feed to get some insight into your personality, hobbies and habits; and they will check out your LinkedIn profile to see what you say about yourself online. Should you be concerned? That will depend on the type of online persona you have built for yourself over the years.


Leaving your mark

Your 'digital footprint' is the sum of information that exists about you, on the Internet, as a result of your online activity.


Most 21st Century-dwellers have been exposed to the internet long enough to have formed a digital trail of some description, most likely through the use of interactive websites, discussion forums, and social media.


Getting a job

'Team fit', 'culture fit', and 'personality' are three of the most important assessment criteria that hiring managers utilise when looking for new team members. Some hiring managers will rank these factors even higher than skills, often citing the common adage that 'you can teach skills, but you can't change someone's personality'.


It's difficult for an employer to guarantee that someone will fit well into their team based on a couple of interviews and reference checks. Hiring managers will, therefore, attempt to gauge a person's 'fit' by other means, including looking at their digital footprint.


What can you do about it?

Perception

Every hiring manager will interpret your online presence in different ways. What is 'acceptable' for one hiring manager, may not be for another. You need to stay true to who you are, but remember that you will be (subjectively) judged, whether you like the thought of that or not. Now may be a good time to delete your 'edgy' or expletive-filled Insta pics or Facebook posts.


Google yourself

Pretend you are a hiring manager and try to find traces of your digital footprint online. The best way to do this is to use a range of search engines (not just Google), and check out the first three or four pages of search results. Look at both the usual (text-based) search results, then check out the image results - you may be surprised by what you find!


Consistency

It's essential to ensure that your CV and your LinkedIn profile marry up. Make sure that all your job titles are the same; the start/finish dates are the same; that there are no employment gaps for a hiring manager to 'red flag', and that you are not 'fudging' any information.


Language

If you are applying for a job overseas, make sure you write your online information in the language of your destination country - especially for portfolio sites and your LinkedIn profile.


Spelling and grammar

Spelling and grammar errors are major turn-offs for hiring managers. If English is your second language, it's imperative that you get someone to proofread your online information and your CV.


Security

Every social platform (including LinkedIn) allows you to set various levels of security and privacy. It's a good idea to check your settings periodically (as they can and do change over time without your knowledge). You should seriously consider making your Facebook account private (Friends only) as that is one place that hiring managers will be sure to spot your 'extracurricular activities'.


Profile photos

Your social media profile photos say a lot about you. Depending on the type of job that you hope to get, you may wish to re-think the sunglasses, the beer, the photo you took ten years ago, or the swimsuit. It's just a thought.


Out with the old

Delete or deactivate any social media accounts, blogs or websites that you no longer use, including obsolete accounts that you may have forgotten (like MySpace, Google+ or Bebo).


Be nice

Companies want to hire nice people. It's far too easy to be 'not nice' online and hiring managers will see that. To become the nicest online-you possible, try to post only positive comments; be kind in your Tweets; un-tag yourself from questionable Facebook photos; and keep hyper-critical comments to yourself. You could also consider starting a blog or website that showcases your work, or hobbies, or things that you are passionate about and proves just how nice you really are.


The power is in your hands

You have the ability to curate your digital footprint and influence the way future employers look at you. Always remember that the power of the image that you present is (mostly) in your hands. Once you've assessed, tweaked, deleted, and protected your online content, go out there and get that job!


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