An employer's perception of your online activity is very subjective based on their own biases and preconceptions. While it’s impossible to anticipate, or satisfy, every possible bias, it is good to be aware and thoughtful about what perceptions might be, and manage your online activity with those considerations in mind.
What are some common perceptions of your presence? Here are a few to consider…
You Are Everywhere!
You may be very active online - on Facebook, LinkedIn, multiple additional social media sites, a blog, comments on a large number of other blogs, buying sites, news sites, and other venues.
Perhaps you’ve been diligent about creating and developing a consistent professional image throughout your online activity that can make a very positive impact.
However, it can also raise a "red-flag" about how much time and effort you put into that kind of activity. Does it cut into your work time? Is it a distraction from your other responsibilities? Can you be trusted to not over-use company time and resources to keep your online presence active?
There Is Another Side to You.
Often, people view LinkedIn as their "professional" and public side, and everything else is somehow "private."
The reality is that through Google, everything online is public. In a Google search, explicit or inappropriate material you may have posted on MySpace is just as visible as the "white shirt and tie" persona you may have created on LinkedIn.
While an employer may be impressed with your image and professional history they may find on LinkedIn, they may be turned-off by a political rant you might have written to the local paper; the way you may have cursed out a company in a review site because you were dissatisfied with a product or service; the explicit discussion you may have had with someone in an online forum; or any number of other possibilities.
While your work may be one important factor of a hiring decision, the entire "package" they are getting is also a major consideration. Seeing another, very unattractive side to your personality can be a very limiting factor.
You Are Careless.
Perhaps you made a very positive impression on your resume and in an interview and so they have a high opinion of you. However, when they find you online, they are surprised to see that you may not live up to what they expected.
Often, people don’t pay attention to the details as much as they do when they are "on stage" in an interview. If your writing online is characterized by misspellings, bad grammar, and poorly thought out arguments and comments, they may form another opinion of you that is not as favorable. They may make judgments about the likely quality of your work based on what they see that you’ve written online.
Sloppy or careless writing or thinking, or use of "texting speak" in written communication will diminish your credibility.
All of these perceptions are very subjective based on the individual reader. Some will be highly influenced, and others not so much. However, if you know that opinions will be formed based on what is found, it’s critical to consider your actions.
Very often, potential employers make decisions not to pursue a candidate further after getting an impression online. You’ll never know why you were rejected. They won’t tell you what contributed to their decision. However, it happens regularly. Be aware of what’s out there. Google yourself, and see what comes up. (Set up Google Alerts to monitor your online reputation.) Be careful of what you add, and clean up anything you can that may not create the impression you want. In today’s online world, it’s not only your resume and interview that contribute to a hiring decision!