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Today’s proliferation of social and networking websites presents both new opportunities and challenges to job seekers. While it is easier than ever to connect and network with other professionals, it is equally as easy to make the wrong impressions with content posted online.  Most of today’s popular social media sites are accessed by companies when hiring prospective employees. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr and countless others can provide a window into the life of a candidate. Unfortunately, that window can reveal some unflattering things unless care is taken to conduct online reputation management.

What is online reputation management? The steps taken by job seekers (and employees, as well) to make sure unflattering images and stories about them can’t be found online.  You don’t want long-buried, or not-so-positive stories and photos from your past to be discovered by a human resources department. As a general rule, if you share content publicly on social media, make sure the content works for, not against you.

Consider the following tips when conducting online reputation management:

  • Review your social media profiles and consider removing or securing content that could potentially be viewed by an employer as unprofessional.  Focus on posting content that highlights your professionalism, personality, interests and qualifications in a positive manner.  Avoid content that is provocative, inflammatory, lewd or that raises an eyebrow.  You don’t want to be viewed as a partier, someone who never sleeps, or someone who exhibits risky or questionable behavior.  Staying away from topics such as religion and politics is also advisable.
  • Separate personal and professional.  On sites of a more “business” nature, like Linked In, you’ll want to focus on building your professional images.  For sites of a more “social” nature, such as Facebook, consider making customizing your “privacy” settings to secure your personal life by limiting who can see your photos and postings to those your “friends” and, consider only accepting “friends” who are personal and not related to your work. 
  • Limit tagging and prevent others from tagging you in photos without your approval.  No one will care more than you do about how you are perceived during your job search (or any other time). You must make the effort to protect your reputation and remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Take steps to avoid being surprised by the appearance of that crazy photo from your college reunion, best friends wedding, etc. right at the time of a job offer.
  • Be cognizant of time stamping.  By estimates, approximately 1/3 of employers actively review social media in the hiring process.  Those who do are generally quite savvy in figuring out your online activity.  Did you spend a lot of time on Facebook at your previous job?  Blogging on Tumblr instead of working?  Unless that was part of your job responsibilities, this is exactly what companies are looking at when they are checking you out.  Pay attention to your online behavior and when you are posting – they sure will.
  • Control the messaging and make yourself relevant.  Before executing a job search, create positive online content and push it out to the outlets your frequent. This will make any searches done in your name bring back professional, directed content of your choosing.  Keep doing this during your search at intervals to control the message and project the image you desire. This puts you in charge, helps you build your personal brand and effectively manage your online presence.

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