Once upon a time, potential employers knew very little about you—except what you told them. Their impression was based on your interview skills, your resumé, and the opinions of a few carefully chosen colleagues.

Fast forward to modern day. If a company is thinking about bringing you on board, you can safely assume they will examine your online presence—social media, blogs, whatever they can get their hands on. I know this from personal experience. I’ve dug up my fair share of information on job candidates.

This may seem like a twenty-first century injustice, but it makes perfect sense. Companies see you as an investment. They can and will use the internet to calculate their chances of a good return.

Here’s the good news: It’s entirely possible to make your online footprint more appealing to potential employers. The following six steps can make a big difference:

  1. Since most potential employers will search your name, why not beat them to the punch? Use Google and other major search engines to learn everything you can about yourself. Identify the trouble spots, using a “better safe than sorry” mentality. Pretend you’re in the employer’s shoes. Anything posted by you can be removed, and if someone else is responsible, you can ask them to remove the content on your behalf.
  2. Did you know that the two biggest players in social networking—Facebook and Twitter—have a range of privacy settings? This is a great way to quickly hide content from public view. You can leave your settings private for the duration of a job search, or root out questionable material before turning the privacy settings back to normal.
  3. Search engines become more sophisticated by the hour, allowing determined employers to dig up every little piece of dirt. Go through your online accounts and look for anything that could harm your cause. If you’re deleting entire accounts, it’s best to first delete content you don’t want, then delete the account. Some companies take days or weeks to purge deleted accounts.
  4. There is one social networking site that almost always helps. A concise, up-to-date profile on LinkedIn will show potential employers that you are serious about professional growth. Discrepancies are the pitfall here; make sure the resumé you’ve handed in matches the information on LinkedIn. If it doesn’t, you may find yourself on the receiving end of some very awkward questions!
  5. If you’re using a sassy email address for professional correspondence (lovechild429xoxo, anyone?), you may as well print your resume on the back of a telephone bill. Instead, use a businesslike address such as yourname@gmail.com. I know from personal experience that email addresses can sway potential employers—so don’t run the risk!

It’s not all about damage control. A positive, well-crafted online presence can actually help your chances of getting hired. Use the power of social media to brand yourself as a dynamic, creative, focused individual—and potential employers will see just that.

“You are what you share.”—C.W. Leadbeater, We Think: The Power Of Mass Creativity

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