Social networking sites are a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, organise events and share photos and videos.
However, recruiters are increasingly using these networks as a way of vetting applications. So as you start thinking about applying for jobs, it is crucial that you ensure that your online persona aligns with your career goals.
Whether you are a dedicated social networker or just spend a few hours a week on networking sites, it is worth giving serious thought to who can access your data. The content you place online can have a big impact on your future.
Unless you have made the effort to change your privacy settings, your profile could be visible to any HR person and searchable on Google.
Joining location networks on Facebook will also open up your profile to anyone on that network, not just your friends. If you make use of Facebook’s “check in” feature, others can easily find out how you have been spending your free time.
Many employers are using social networks to screen candidates. If your profile is public, any potential employer could have details on a lot more than just your qualifications and work experience. This doesn’t mean you need to remove every trace of your existence, just that you need to be savvy and ensure that your online persona portrays you at your best to recruiters and employers.
Consider what content you are happy for anyone to see and what you feel is best saved for friends and family. A good option is to use LinkedIn for your professional life and Facebook for your private life.
Start by using the settings Facebook and other networking sites now offer regarding privacy issues. You can choose who can see particular status updates, photos and anything else.
Next, pop your name into a search engine and see what comes up. Most social networks have a public listing that contains posted information from your profile and a link. This can be switched off by editing your privacy settings.
While you are at it, why not switch your profile to “friends only”? That way, should a recruiter search on the site itself, they will only have access to the content that you want them to see.
Don’t forget areas such as blogs, forum posts and other applications such as YouTube.
Anything you have ever posted under your real name could show up in a search.
Your rants about a company or views that might cause concern to a potential employer could knock you out of the running.
The web isn’t just there to catch you out; it can also be your friend in the recruitment process. In one study, half of recruiters said that the information they had found about a candidate online had positively influenced their decision-making.
Some graduate recruiters have posted groups on social networks to make it easier for graduates to get in touch and find out about their organisations, which can be an excellent opportunity to network.
Twitter can also be a good way to connect with employers. You can use it to listen to what recruiters are saying and to keep up-to-date with their latest news. If you are interested in working for an organisation, sign up to its Twitter pages to find out the latest company information and recruitment activities.
Many savvy students have already set up their own website or blog. If you haven’t, consider it. It demonstrates initiative and, if you do it right, is a good way of showing off your creativity and communication skills and highlighting achievements in greater detail. However, don’t forget to make it look professional and appropriate for your future career.
The web is a valuable resource and you can have fun with it, just remember it is a public arena. Ensure it helps, rather than hinders, your career search.