Does Your Online Persona Work Against You?

If you have been reading my blog posts, by now you know that I encourage you to thoroughly prepare yourself for interview situations in several ways, including research, review, and taking appropriate action to communicate your value to employers.

While these are extremely important and can either make or break your chances of generating a job offer, the truth is, if you don’t refine and maintain a professional image long before the interview, you may never have the opportunity to walk through that door in the first place. Organizations today have many methods of screening applicants prior to ever contacting them to schedule an interview. One of the easiest and most obvious places for you to begin to control your image is right in front of you – the internet.

If you are using a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, ClassMates, or Twitter, or if you have a personal blog, it’s time to go over it with the same fine-toothed comb an employer would. Four out of five organizations now report that they routinely search these sites and Google candidates before contacting them for interviews. In addition, since many employers now monitor employees as well, it’s a wise practice to begin policing yourself now – after all, no one wants to get dooced (strong language caveat).

During a job search, you have by default become a salesperson, and your product is YOU. You have to develop an internal PR department to monitor that your every action, both online and in person, sends the correct message about your personal brand. It’s easy to unintentionally broadcast inappropriate, overly revealing, or negative messages about yourself on these sites if you fail to consider their value as branding tools. There is nothing professional about posting photos of your night life, vulgar language, or comments that reflect any potentially controversial beliefs or associations on these publicly accessible pages.

And remember – just because you may not be concerned about this now, doesn’t mean it may not be a major problem later in your career. A wise man has said- “Once on the internet, always on the internet” and truer words may never have been spoken. You forever lose control of the material you post, how it is used, and who sees it the moment you hit “enter’, so be judicious. Don’t forget to take the next step and click through to the sites of your online friends that may be linked to your page – they may have posted pictures or comments about you that could be damaging as well.

Beyond content, inferences can be drawn by your use of these sites. Updating all day every day with every minute detail of your life tells an employer something about how productive you’re likely to be. So too does having multiple sites and pages that need attention regularly, or content that is out of sync with the message you’re trying to send professionally. Beware also who and what you are linked to online – having a large number of friends with unsavory profiles, or linking only to celebrity gossip sites, for example, sends a message in and of itself.

Conversely, thoughtful use of the internet – having a large and relevant professional network and a businesslike, unique and thoughtful blog or website with a dedicated following, can be quite attractive to an employer. Your personal brand is made up not only of your accomplishments, but also of every single person, group, image, comment, and site you allow yourself to be associated with. Choose wisely.


Author:

Brent Peterson is the founder of Interview Angel (www.interviewangel.com), the most comprehensive guide to executing near flawless job interviews. Brent’s goal is to help all job seekers take proper action to display their value and fulfill their professional goals.

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