Social media: every job seeker’s potential nightmare

In the digital world, your online presence can make or break your reputation. This is especially important when you're looking for work. Sarah Pearce guides you through the murky waters.

In today’s digital world, your online presence can make or break your reputation. For those seeking work, it is even more imperative that what you are doing and saying online does not damage your chances of scoring a job or thwarting your career plans. These days, most companies utilise the Internet in their recruitment endeavours. With a growing number of Web tools, the days of typing a formal cover letter and resume, printing them on high-quality paper, and sending them to prospective employers are becoming obsolete. And the daunting task of cramming all of your personal information and accomplishments on a single page is fast becoming extinct.

So, what are businesses turning to in order to hire their employees? Career Builder reports that 89% of all recruiters now report having hired someone through LinkedIn, and 70% of those have rejected applicants outright based on the content they found. No questions asked. Just a simple process of elimination (that you never even knew about). Hmmm... In that case, imagine being a job seeker today who owns a sloppily set-up, incomplete LinkedIn account, that has typos and poor grammar? Worse. Imagine not even having a LinkedIn account when it now has 400M users in 200 countries and is the world's number one platform for professionals to engage, interact, create and consume industry?

LinkedIn is much more than a job seeking platform – it is a medium through which to spread your business message in a professional atmosphere. In a nutshell, it is your business card online. Job seekers, be sure that your LinkedIn page is of the highest quality! How do you do this? First, include a professional photo of yourself. Research tells us that people are seven times more likely to click on your profile if a professional picture accompanies it. Yep, ditch the selfie and invest in a professional headshot. It will be worth every cent. Next, be sure to include a captivating headline. On LinkedIn, people find you through keyword searches, so if your headline is boring or unsearchable you will be, too. It is also crucial that your professional summary is compelling and to the point. Include your greatest accomplishments, but keep them short and sweet. Finally, always list your work history; ultimately, it’s not where you worked, but what you accomplished at each job that sets you apart from the rest.

But beware: LinkedIn is not the only social platform that hiring managers are perusing. They search for the “real you” by doing a bit of professional ‘stalking’ right throughout social media. Where is the first place the FBI go now when they want to investigate someone? Facebook. And that's where recruiters and your future employers will go too. They will also check out your pics on Instagram, read your rants on public forums, browse your tweets, scrutinize your blogs, see what kind of communities you belong to, consider the calibre of your friends, and type your name into Google search to find even more about your true identity - images included. Have your friends tagged you in party pictures you are either unaware of or forgotten about? People can make themselves look the world’s best employee on paper, but employers will not be fooled after doing some research and uncovering your virtual self.

These days, prospective employers are “reading” about job recruits before they meet them in real life What does this mean for you? It's time to do a thorough digital audit of yourself and discover how you really come across in the business world. What message does your ‘social media CV’ send about you? What picture does it paint? Don’t like it? Neither will they. Clean up that sloppy grammar, correct those mistakes, be mindful of the photos you are posting and the jokes you are sharing, double-triple-check your privacy settings and understand clearly that once something goes online it is almost impossible to completely remove it again. In the online world, every move you make leaves a trail. If you want to win that dream job, be sure it's a good one!

Sarah Pearce is a business coach, author, and professional speaker.