Your online presence is essentially any information about you on the internet. Often this comes from your social network profiles (like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn) but it may also consist of blogs you have written, work you have posted online, photographs that you or your friends have posted on any websites and contributions to forums or online chatrooms. Once you take into consideration all the different ways you can be seen or mentioned online it is easy to understand how your online image is both complicated and hard to control. And yet, controlling it is of the utmost importance from both a safe and social perspective and increasingly from a professional point of view.
Having social networking profiles and regularly engaging with others through social media is generally seen by employers as a good thing. It proves that you have a certain amount of technological savvy but more importantly it gives your employer and potential employers a more rounded picture of what you are like as an individual beyond the contrived scenario of a meeting or job interview or the heavily edited version of your achievements and aspirations to be found on your CV.
Of course, this can be something of a double edged sword. Because while it is an opportunity for people to see the real you, it is also used by employers and recruitment consultants to screen candidates. Like it or not, what you say and do online (or not, if you don't have a presence at all) could prevent you from getting an interview or even cause you to lose your job.
Take Connor Riley from the US, for example. She was offered a job from Cisco and tweeted: ‘Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.’
Shortly afterwards there was a reply from someone claiming to be a Cisco employee: ‘Who is the hiring manager? I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the Web.’
It may have been taken out of context, and Riley was quick to clarify that the ‘fatty paycheck’ was for an internship that she didn’t want and had already turned down, but the ensuing tsunami of vitriol that she was subjected to was a hugely disproportionate reaction to a tweet that, had she bothered to click on the privacy box, should only have been seen by her friends.
But you don’t have to proactively badmouth a potential employer to find yourself in hot water. Common reasons for rejecting applicants among recruitment companies include poor grammar or spelling, inappropriate photos, talking about drinking or drug use, lying about qualifications and/or experience, or inappropriate and offensive comments.
Everything you do online is permanent, direct and immediate, often the information becomes public by default, you don’t own much of the content and simply removing something from the web doesn’t always mean that people won’t find it. But there are some simple ways that you can help to ensure that people only see what you want them to see.
- Search for your name and see what comes up. If you find something that could damage your reputation take steps to have it removed. If you know the person responsible ask them to take it down. If you don’t, contact the site owner or administrator with a request to remove it.
- Use the available privacy settings: Unless you set appropriate privacy settings and limit who has access to your accounts/information your social network page will come up on a web search.
- Make sure any negative information (a compromising photo or comments from a night out for example) is not available to the general public. What’s funny for your friends may do you no favours with a wider audience.
- Remove anything that is no longer true of you.
- Leave any Facebook groups and remove any followers that might undermine your image.
- Think about having separate accounts for business and personal use. Use LinkedIn as your professional profile and Facebook for your personal networking for example.
- Don't criticise your current or previous employers using social media.
- Avoid bad language, ill-advised comments or jokes.
- Un-tag yourself from photos.
- Be aware of your own privacy and the need to protect your identity. Don't give out information that can be used against you. Always log out after use.