Job Hunters Should Do This Critical Thing Before Applying for a Job

A transitioning soldier gets advice from a company recruiter at a Hire Our Heroes job fair.

When was the last time you posted to LinkedIn? Are you as active with your Facebook friends today as you were when you first connected? Do you still have an old MySpace account lurking on the Internet?

Recruiters and hiring managers will most certainly look at your digital footprint to complete their assessment of your viability as a job candidate. Take the time today to start cleaning up what they'll find online about you.

Here are suggestions to clean up your online presence:

  1. Sweep for consistency. Do you show up as the same person on LinkedIn as on Facebook? It's OK to be more social on Facebook since it's a more social platform. But if your language, comments, photos, and tone reflect a very different persona than I'd find on another platform -- or in person -- it can be confusing.  

  2. Do a sweep of your contacts. Are they still in your life today? Sometimes, we connect with colleagues or friends we make in previous jobs (i.e. your military service) who we don't want to be connected to for our future pursuits. If this is the case, purge these people from your contacts. If you know them well and need to remove them because they post content that's not consistent with your values, contact them and let them know in advance.  

  3. Delete posts or comments that show you in a negative light. Sure, this doesn't remove them from the Internet forever, but it would be hard for a recruiter to find a negative comment or offensive joke you made two years ago ... if you remove it today.  

  4. Update your LinkedIn profile. Be sure it includes your current job, with a bulleted list of your key responsibilities and achievements. You also want to update your volunteer activities and any certifications or training you've received since your last update.  

  5. Review your headline and summary sections on LinkedIn. Do they reflect who you are today and the job you're looking for? Are you using the right keywords to attract desired employers?  

  6. Update your profile photo on all platforms, if needed. Particularly on LinkedIn, you should reflect a current and polished appearance. On Facebook, Instagram and other platforms, strive to show consistency in your image while highlighting the more social side of your personality.  

  7. Look through the recommendations you've received on LinkedIn. Are they current or 10 years old? Do they speak to your roles in the military or other aspects of your career? Make sure all recommendations are relevant to the jobs you want and include keywords to get you noticed.  

  8. If you don't have any (or many) recommendations, ask for some. Offer to provide a draft copy that the recommender can modify and personalize. This way, you can include keywords and drive the narrative the way it suits you best.  

  9. Take inventory of what you're posting and how often. Posting too many times per day on LinkedIn, for instance, can be intrusive. Posting once a month on Facebook gets you forgotten. Look over the past few months of your posts -- what number of posts gets you the most interactions (likes, comments, shares) and set a goal to continue that.

Social media is like any part of a marketing plan. You have to assess and re-work the plan from time to time to keep it current and relevant. Particularly when it comes to a job seeker's digital footprint, the more current, timely and relevant you make online profiles to what recruiters and hiring managers are looking for, the better.

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