This may feel a little awkward to you at first, but I promise it’s worth taking a minute to do. Open up a search engine like google, type in your name, and press ‘Enter’. What do you see? If you’re an avid user of social media and the internet, odds are you see a list of links to different profiles, posts, and pictures on an array of different websites — congratulations, you just performed one of the first steps in the recruiting process.
You have probably all heard the phrase, “once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever”, at least once before, and with the use of the internet booming due to coronavirus, now is a suitable time to be reminded how true this statement really is. According to preliminary statistics gathered by Forbes, over the course of the past few months internet traffic has surged to 70% more usage than usual. The amount of users on the internet combined with the variety of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has created a massive data base in which recruiter’s can gather endless useful information.
Once a recruiter has found a potential lead and wants to learn more about them, all it takes is a simple google search to access plenty of background information on who they are. This quick search is usually done right at the beginning of the recruiting process, not because of the amount of experience and talent that could be discovered, but because all the personal posts and profiles that people have accumulated online makes it far easier to get a glimpse of a person’s character. As a recruiter, I’ll always start with LinkedIn when trying to explore a candidate’s qualifications because it was specifically designed to have a separate, professional online profile to advertise those personal attributes. Other social media sites are different – they’re more personal, and the majority of accounts are made for leisure and entertainment. Though these are the primary uses for these websites, they can be just as useful for getting an understanding of how well a candidate will fit in with a company, and also how professionally they take themselves outside of work.
Yes, we all have lives outside of work and should be free to keep it separate from our professional endeavors, but in the modern world where people have grown fond of sharing their life online to the public, this can no longer be the case. Before social media, the world had two completely separate lives when it came to their career and home life, but nowadays due to the internet it has become much more difficult to keep these two from crossing paths. The ease of looking at people’s personal lives has impacted the hiring process immensely, and it’s also made keeping your home life and work life both politically correct far more important.
If you’re going to post a picture from your wild bachelor party, fun memories from college and high school, your political stance for the next election, your religious beliefs, or even just your thoughts throughout the day, you need to always think twice about who is going to see it and whether its suitable to be out there forever. A lot of college students / graduates nowadays have old profiles from when they were teens, and naturally at that age we tend to not think through our actions as clearly and put up posting more recklessly. It WILL make the difference if your teenage-self shared something that isn’t business appropriate. Your social media has become part of the foundation to finding who you are in public.
If you’re a jobseeker and haven’t done so before, I highly recommend going and checking for any inappropriate or potentially offensive posts that could hurt how you look to recruiters. Even if you think your profile is nice and neat, something that was once harmless could be taken out of context and hurt your chances of being hired, so taking a look for these things can never hurt.
To make it as simple as possible for myself, I went through all of my old accounts from college / high school and deactivated them to assure I come up as clean as possible when being searched for online. The most effective way to clear your virtual footprint online is to delete all of your old accounts and start fresh with new ones, it is well worth the time if you are looking to find a new job, and you don’t lose the access to being online. Personally, I made new profiles without personal information so I could continue using social media for entertainment, but at the same time make sure that I have no interference between my work and online life. This was my preference though and making new profiles with your true identity is not a harmful thing to do in any way, as long as you keep it business friendly.
So, circling back to earlier, what do you see? Sort through your old profiles, posts and links that have your name attached to see what you can find. This will assure you have up to date, tasteful profiles popping up in that first google search before any of your older, less professional ones do. It is best to be safe and keep your online world clean, especially right now while job hunting in an online world-of-unemployment. As I always say — it could potentially be the difference between being hired or ignored.