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Making a Great First Impression on Employers

By Elizabeth Webster and Meghan McFee

A digital profile is the new first impression. Potential employers often see it before they meet you. Job seekers looking for temporary work may be surprised that just like their colleagues searching for permanent roles, their online presence is critical to their success.

Why? Your online presence not only shows a glimpse into your personality, but more importantly to potential employers, your digital profile offers insights into your accomplishments and – this one’s important – your judgement.

Since virtually anyone can access social media sites, or find their way around security settings, organizations want to make sure that potential employees can uphold the company’s image and reputation with their online presence.

Violating a company’s social media policy has cost people their jobs. It can also screen out potential employees from moving further in the hiring process. Because both of these actions could be discriminatory, many states have enacted laws and guidelines to protect job seekers and employees.

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What Should You Do?

Is your online presence helping or hindering your job search? Here are some tips for ensuring a professional online presence no matter the type of role you are seeking:

Google It!

The first step in reviewing your online presence is to search for yourself and to do an inventory of your digital footprint.

What comes up when you Google yourself (both in web and image searches)?

Consider deleting any questionable content or old profiles and check your posts, tweets, snaps and photos.

Don’t forget to see if a friend, colleague or family member tagged you in any posts or photos in which you don’t want the world (or even friends of friends) to see.

Use the mother test here – if you wouldn’t want your mom to see it, delete it now.

[Read the Guide to Defensive Googling for details on how to search most effectively and Monitor Your Online Reputation with Google Alerts for more information.]

Privacy Check

Pay special attention to the privacy and security settings on all your profiles. For your personal accounts like Instagram and Facebook, make sure your settings are airtight.

For LinkedIn, you want to choose a slightly more lenient privacy setting, especially when you’re in job search mode. Stringent security on this site can make you look like you’re being less than forthcoming, and can also make it difficult for employers, recruiters and your contacts to find you.

Picture Perfect

Your profile photos on social media sites are the first glimpse employers have of you. What do they see?

For networking sites like LinkedIn, opt for a headshot (professionally taken if possible). It’s difficult to see your face in a full body shot. You should also be alone in the photo -- pictures with multiple people can be confusing and unless you’re a graphic designer, your cropping skills are probably not top notch.

Make sure you look current and presentable and try to capture your professional image. On more social sites, your profile picture can be more casual, but forget about the shirtless selfies or pictures with a cocktail in your hand. Casual doesn’t mean careless.

[Read LinkedIn Profile Photos for Job Seekers Over 50 for tips on getting the best photo regardless of your age.]

Check Your Dates

If the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile was when you created it years ago, or when you started your last job, log on now! Make sure your company names, job titles and dates of employment are correct and match your resume.

Any inconsistencies could cause a potential employer to question your honesty or integrity. At best, you look sloppy and disorganized. Data accuracy is especially important for temporary workers and contractors who may change jobs frequently. Keep those dates up-to-date.

Content Dos

On LinkedIn, be sure to give a clear and concise picture of your professional identity. Do list your job titles and give a brief description for each position.

It’s a good idea to include references and links to published work or professional blogs and make sure you belong to several groups that represent your chosen field or industry.

Finally, try to post content a few times a week and use your profile to showcase your career expertise. Recruiters love this type of profile. You make it easy for them to “sell” you as a candidate.

And Content Don’ts

No matter how private your settings are, stay away from any controversial topics on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites while looking for a job.

You may have strong opinions on political, religious or social issues. However, these are scorching hot (and extremely subjective) topics and even if you are passionate, others may disagree, think it’s inappropriate, or respond negatively. Post about these topics at your own risk.

Watch What You "Like"

You should also avoid "liking" posts and photos about provocative subjects.

While you may think it is harmless to give a thumbs up to a meme with snarky content, think again. Those who are following you can see your “likes” on their feed – and often, so can their connections. Keep it professional.

Bottom Line

A messy digital footprint could be more than a faux pas. It could impact your job search. Having honest, accurate, and appropriate information on your profiles can help you land your next temporary, contract, or permanent position.

Think of your online presence as your own professional brand. Build it and care for it so it can take you to the next level in your career. See Job-Hunt's free Guide to Personal Online Reputation Management for more details.

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About the authors...

Elizabeth Webster is a Senior Staffing Manager in the Accounting, Finance & Administrative division of WinterWyman Contract Staffing while Meghan McFee is a Principal Staffing Manager in the Technology division. Liz works with all levels of Accounting & Finance (Clerk through CFO) contractors in the New England job market while Meghan’s focus is on recruiting Database, QA, Project Management and Tech Support professionals in the New York and Boston markets. Contact Meg at mmcfee@winterwyman.com and Liz at ewebster@winterwyman.com. To keep abreast of happenings in the contract staffing world, follow WinterWyman's LinkedIn page, and check out @WWcontracts on Twitter.