The information age ushered in the Internet and all things online, including social media. In the early 1990s, the World Wide Web was developed for commercial purposes. Every company, large and small started to develop their online presence by building websites with home pages or virtual store fronts.
Today, our children are growing up in a world in which all things online all the time is the norm. Although there is much debate on how the future digital age will be collectively defined, there is still no doubt that in order to be a part of the world we live in, an online presence, while not mandatory, is strongly encouraged. Why?
According to a study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management, 43% of all HR professionals surveyed said that they review public social media profiles or perform online searches to screen job candidates. In addition, 24% said that they always use screening for executive level hiring and another 34% frequently screen. And it’s worth noting that, that same study found that 36% of organizations found something in their online screening that caused them to disqualify a candidate from the position.
So first, if you aren’t online, there isn’t any way for an HR manager to evaluate you as a candidate. Your resume just isn’t enough anymore. Worse, if you lack a social media foot print, you could be perceived as out of touch, disinterested and lacking in technical skills. According to Forbes, HR managers are looking for intellectual curiosity and self-monitoring from their candidates, both of which can and should be highlighted on robust social media channels.
What about LinkedIn? What is it and why is it important that you get and stay active on LinkedIn? From a basic perspective, LinkedIn is a digital resume. It’s designed to give the viewer a professional snapshot of your career path. But like most social media channels, there is so much more you can and should do with content. By creating a LinkedIn profile and then obtaining endorsements and professional recommendations, you are providing scope, dimension and third party perspectives on your professional journey. LinkedIn provides you with a unique opportunity to brand yourself in a way that other social media sites do not. In particular, by obtaining recommendations from previous employers or clients, you are creating social proof and heightened credibility, which will serve you well as you move forward in your career. In addition, LinkedIn allows you to curate, develop and comment on content.
By doing so, you are broadcasting your opinions and your point of view. This type of content gives employers a window into what type of employee you might be. Remember, employers are looking for innovators, team players and creative thinkers. They are also looking for candidates who have superior communication skills and the ability to use good judgment. Keep this in mind as you curate and/or create content. What you post, comment on or forward is seen as direct reflection of who you are. And while you may be tempted to voice your political or religious view point(s) on LinkedIn, stifle that urge. While you certainly have the right to your religious beliefs and political leanings, by voicing them in a business platform, you could end up inadvertently offending someone, whether you know it or not. You don’t want to be viewed as someone who is viewed a egocentric, insensitive or worse, someone who is unwilling to see a different point of view.
As for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, SnapChat, etc., it would be prudent to be very careful about what you post there too. You do have the right to free speech. However, if you wouldn’t say it to your boss or co-workers directly, it’s best left off your digital foot print. Keep in mind that once it’s out there in the digital space, it’s out there. Even if you have your channels set to private you could be at risk. Many people don’t realize that their content can be captured and used against them at a later date. The dreaded screen shot has come back to haunt more than one job seeker. Don’t let that person be you.
By keeping it professional across all of your social media channels, you are demonstrating a level of maturity and grace, which employers look for. Take the time to evaluate your digital footprint today. And if you don’t have one, get one. It’s not a question of if, but when an HR manager will take the time to run a search on you. The question is, what will they find?