It's vital to be professional on social media and polish posts to create a good impression
Q I am about to apply for a senior managerial role but I am worried that my colourful past is easily accessed on social media; how relevant is my social media footprint?
A More and more employers are closely examining a candidate's online presence before making a decision - either at the initial screening or the job offer stage.
Because much of social media is public, it's no surprise some recruiters and hiring managers are tuning to it as part of their selection process.
Whether you are a graduate looking for your first job or someone trying to move into a senior role, you do need to consider how a prospective employer may view your application once they search through your social media footprint -which can span over a number of years.
It is crucial to keep all public interaction professional, regardless of which social media platform you use. Never post anything you wouldn't want prospective employers or current managers to see and always assume that, no matter how strict your privacy settings are, that your post may still be seen.
Companies will utilise social media to help them gauge strengths a candidate may have such as communication skills or a professional image.
Firms who are using social media as a factor in screening potential hires should be mindful not to discriminate in rejecting applicants. In a competitive economy, companies need to hire the most qualified applicants and it may be beneficial to hire a third-party firm to conduct the search.
Job seekers should beware subtle social media mistakes that can damage opportunities in the long term. I would recommend the following:
1. Keep professional and personal separate: The line between personal and professional must not be crossed - keep all public interaction professional at all times across all social media platforms.
2. Who are your followers? Many times, even if a user isn't posting offensive or inappropriate content themselves, other users (friends, family and other connections) can inadvertently undermine their professional reputation online.
3. Beware of old content: It can always come back to haunt you. Many companies or recruiters will immediately Google candidates and review their content to get a sense of their fit and personality overall. If you're focused on a particular sector then share and comment on happenings in the industry - it shows you are interested and engaged. I would also recommend keeping social media interactions with hiring companies to a minimum - refrain from sending and resending LinkedIn requests, or bombarding the company's Facebook profile with comments - this is not going to create the right impression.
4. Balance your content: A perspective employer may be reviewing your personal content versus the professional content you post, so ensure there is not a higher ratio of non-work-related posts. The more-professional content can show your experience is supported with professional qualifications or showcase your creative background.
5. Watch your timing: Another common mistake is the timing of your social media activity. Because most online content is time-stamped, an employer can easily determine if you have been regularly posting content during work hours, which might be against their company's policies.
6. Make a positive online first impression: The first impression a prospective employer has of you is from a Google search and social media. If the first few search results for your name do not do you justice, create new content. Take down or secure anything that could be viewed as unprofessional and share content that highlights your accomplishments and qualifications. Make sure profiles are free of typos, coherent and applicable.
Some may think they would be better off deleting their social media presence altogether. However, hiring managers can find valuable information when they see a professional image, well-rounded interests and excellent communication skills. Job seekers who are silent online may be at a disadvantage. Follow the rules above but be present on social networking sites.
Michelle Murphy is director of Collins McNicholas, Recruitment & HR Services Group, which has offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Limerick.
Sunday Indo Business