Imagine that all important interview; you've graduated university with a 1st, spent your summer working hard to gather the relevant experience, and you've spent hours doing your research and brushing up on the job, the company and the industry. It's September and it's game time.
You're confident, your CV is immaculate and you've rehearsed the answers to a myriad of possible questions.
Now consider the feeling in your stomach when you're blindsided with a question about a photo that was posted online four years ago, in the wake of a particularly hedonistic University social. Envisage the "rabbit in headlights" expression plastered across your face when you're asked about "that night out", think about the deafening silence when the interviewer enquires as to why you thought it would be funny.
As comical as it sounds, I always tell my teenagers that an interview like this is very much within the realms of possibility if you do not manage your digital footprint. Once it's online, it isn't going anywhere.
What's the problem?
A recent Norton survey found that 72% of respondents run their names through a search engine to see what others might find, and a quarter were shocked to spot content published without their permission. This, in conjunction with the fact that almost half (48%) of hiring managers who research applicants on social media have found something that led them not to hire a candidate, has massive ramifications for those on the jobs market who have not tailored their public profile to reflect their best self. It's imperative that you keep an eye on what's being indelibly inked onto your online persona.
The nature of the working world is evolving, there is a digital revolution at the forefront of our daily lives, a technological evolution that has drastically altered the manner in which we conduct business. The line between the personal and the professional is blurring. We are increasingly one version of ourselves. Work friends are now also social media connections and there is no longer a distinction between suited and booted you, and jeans and trainers you.
It is vital that you maintain your image, both professionally and personally. For graduates in particular, the current jobs market is becoming increasingly saturated, it's no longer enough to have a degree, work experience or internships, because everyone is working hard to bolster their CV with these things. So how do you become a frontrunner for that new position?
The Doors of Perception
Jobvite found that 47% of employers are turned off by photos of alcohol consumption, and other red flags include guns, illegal drug use and poor grammar. There are the things that you present willingly to an employer and those you omit. No one plans to go into an interview to discuss the tales of their wild university days. Social media has become the gateway for an employer to catch a glimpse of these things, as more managers go online to understand a candidate better.
While what you post on social media may not get you fired, it can hinder you and may even stop you being hired. It all boils down to trust. Seeing how you present yourself online raises questions in hiring managers' minds - Am I confident I can trust this person? Would I be comfortable putting this person in front of a client? - and can sometimes plant seeds of doubt. Ultimately as a business manager, you need to trust your employees to represent themselves and the business.
The only decision I often tell my teenage kids they have to make is, would I want an employer or a colleague to see me like this? If the answer is no then the process is simple, don't allow that photo or opinion to make its way onto social media, change the privacy settings on your social profiles so that your profiles are not public, and don't allow yourself to be tagged in any compromising photos or comments that are suspect in nature.
What can be done?
Protect your reputation: Tailor your privacy settings, choose when and what to share. Be aware of what is being posted about you and how far reaching these posts can be, if it's inappropriate, lock it down. Get two steps ahead; switch on two factor authentication as a way of preventing unauthorised access to your information.
Check yourself: on grammar, and indeed on jokes that could be misread. Ensure that anything you publically post is spellchecked and not likely to offend; you are of course entitled to your own opinion, but voicing something controversial to a friend in a crowded bar is a far cry from a series of tweets which remain online for all to see.
Boundaries are crucial, so aim to keep a professional email address and a personal one. At the very least this will save you some CV embarrassments (we've all got that one email address from our teenage years) and keeping them separate will be highly beneficial in the long run.
Take control of your digital ink and write your own online story.