WHEN YOU ARE AT AN interview with another person, face-to-face, you know “you have only one opportunity to make that first impression.” But it’s even more important to create the right impression on social media and other online open blogs because many hiring managers look up job candidates on all those sites to learn more about you and very likely they have formed that first impression before you appear from what they find –and that may influence if and how you are contacted. And those findings may include everything from a colleague's endorsement to the airing of dirty laundry.
According to personal branding specialist Vicky Oliver, the online impression you make has become as important -- if not more so -- than a word-of-mouth referral or an in-person impression. So it’s really important for everyone in the job market to carefully manage their presence in cyberspace and make sure it's business-worthy.
In her latest book, “301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions,” Oliver offers these suggestions for making sure your online image is appropriate:
1. Be the steward of your own online presence. Even if you make an intentional effort to clean up your language and become tactful in your comments, you should look beyond your personal activity. It takes a refined sense of social media etiquette and some diligent watch-dogging to ensure your online image is business-worthy. When was the last time you Googled yourself? Your web presence may fan out more broadly than you knew. Pursue each link, and be sure to search images as well.
2. Don't let your LinkedIn profile grow stale. Does your after school fast-food job still show up on your LinkedIn profile even though you're long out of school? If so, your profile update is long overdue. With each step up the career ladder, be sure to refine your profile and lose those inessential entries. Even if your career trajectory stalled lately, keep your profile content as fresh as possible. You may have a new skill set to add after attending a training, or a recent client whose endorsement you can solicit.
3. Don't let your online photo stray too far from your true self. Tempting as it may be to remake yourself on social media, resist the urge to go overboard retouching your photo in Photoshop. Of course, you want your LinkedIn headshot to look its business-best, but too much color correction here or too much shadow removal there can leave you looking like a characterless clone.
4. Polish your online profile 'til it shines. Peruse your social media accounts with a critical eye. Not only do you want to delete any inappropriate photos or off-color language, you want to project a level of maturity and class.
5. Venomous quips can come back to bite you. So you may have just been jilted in the worst way possible. Even though you want the world to know how your ex is beyond cruel, absolutely do not vent online. Nothing sends up a red flag more than a nasty or whiny post. Attempting to intentionally defame someone online often says more about the defamer than the defamed.
6. We all need and crave a Twitter following, but... The Twitterai: it's like the paparazzi for the rest of us. Some Twitter users, as so often happens, obsess about quantity over quality. While the platform lets you create a sense of virtual community among others with like interests, some feel the need to cultivate huge numbers of followers to prove credibility. But, as appropriate users of Twitter know, once a community gets too big, meaningful sharing is drowned out.
7. Focus where you'll have the most impact. Refining your social media presence is crucial to "branding" yourself. But, let's be honest, there are so many social media platforms that it can be difficult to be on all of them in a meaningful way. Pick the ones you enjoy the most because that's where you will focus your efforts best. Having an online profile on LinkedIn makes sense for most business people. After that -- choose a social media outlet where you feel you can have the most impact. #