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How Employers View Your Online Presence

imageIt’s common to hear, these days, about how important a strong online presence can be in a job search… and it is! It’s highly likely, in today’s job market, that at some point in the hiring process, a potential employer will look you up on LinkedIn and “Google” your name to see what they find. What they find can have a tremendous impact on whether they proceed with you further… or not.

An employers’ perception of your online activity is very subjective based on their own biases and preconceptions. While it’s impossible to anticipate, or satisfy every possible bias, it is good to be aware and thoughtful about what perceptions might be, and manage your online activity with those considerations in mind.

What are some common perceptions of your presence? Here are a few to consider…

You’re everywhere! You may be very active online, on Facebook, LinkedIn, multiple additional social media sites, a Blog, comments on a large number of other blogs, buying sites, news sites, and other venues. Perhaps you’ve been diligent about creating and developing a consistent professional image throughout your online activity that can make a very positive impact. However, it can also raise a “red-flag” about how much time and effort you put into that kind of activity. Does it cut into your work time? Is it a distraction from your other responsibilities? Can you be trusted to not overuse company time and resources to keep your online presence active?

There’s another side to you. Often, people view LinkedIn as their “professional” and public side, and everything else is somehow “private”. The reality is that through Google, everything online is public. In a Google search, explicit or inappropriate material you may have posted on MySpace is just as visible as the “white shirt and tie” persona you may have created on LinkedIn. While an employer may be impressed with your image and professional history they may find on LinkedIn, they may be turned-off by a political rant you may have written to the local paper; the way you may have cursed out a company in a review site because you were dissatisfied with a product or service; the explicit discussion you may have had with someone in an online forum; or any number of other possibilities. While your work may be one important factor of a hiring decision, the entire “package” they are getting is also a major consideration. Seeing another, very unattractive side to your personality can be a very limiting factor.

You’re careless. Perhaps you made a very positive impression on your resume and in an interview and so they have a high opinion of you. However, when they find you online, they are surprised to see that you may not live up to what they expected. Often, people don’t pay attention to the details as much as they do when they are “on stage” in an interview. If your writing online is characterized by misspellings, bad grammar, and poorly thought out arguments and comments, they may form another opinion of you that is not as favorable. They may make judgments about the likely quality of your work based on what they see that you’ve written online. Sloppy or careless writing or thinking, or “texting speak” in written communication will diminish your credibility.

All of these perceptions are very subjective based on the individual reader. Some will be highly influenced, and others not so much. However, if you know that opinions will be formed based on what is found, it’s critical to consider your actions.

Very often, potential employers make decisions not to pursue a candidate further after getting an impression online. You’ll never know why you were rejected. They won’t tell you what contributed to their decision. However, it happens regularly.

Be aware of what’s out there. Google yourself and see what comes up. Be careful of what you add and clean up anything you can that may not create the impression you want. In today’s online world, it’s not only your resume and interview that contribute to a hiring decision!


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Lee Silverstein said...

It's unfortunate how many people don't realize what they post is out there for the world to see. In today's challenging job market people must be hyper-vigilant to ensure they're not doing anything on line that can be cause negative perceptions by potential employers.
Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Helping You Hire said...

I spend my days pre-screening candidates for job openings here in the Staffing Solutions and Staffing Services industry and I cannot believe the way some people choose to portray themselves online. It is of paramount importance to secure your personal brand and your social media profiles are a great place to start.

Steve Weir said...

I would agree - the social presence sometimes doesn't tell you much, but, when it does it can be revealing. I think it really has the best "tell" for maturity and 'can I trust this person'. The other thing I would pull from it would be overuse- if they do too much then how could they do their job.

"Fit" is a very hard thing to measure as an interviewer, and sometimes that social media presence could make the candidate a deal breaker.

Anonymous said...

How many hiring managers could withstand the scrutiny they apply to those applying for jobs?


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