online.baggageI still remember the day that my sister-in-law taught me how to use the Internet. I learned about Google and Yahoo and how easy it was to find people, places and things. As recruiters, we used to have to dial hundreds of phone numbers to find candidates to fill jobs, but now, all we have to do is use a search engine and voila – a whole list of candidates appears!

As easy as it is for us to find you and learn a bit about your qualifications, it’s also easy for us to find your baggage, and I’m not talking about the kind that holds all your clothes on a trip. Here are some ways to keep your online reputation healthy:

  1. Your Peeps – Contrary to popular belief, recruiters do not have time to look through all of your friends’ profiles to determine if you would make a good Controller or Marketing Manager. That being said, just like you are picky about your friends in real life, choose Facebook friends that are not going to be playing Farmville on your wall all day. If it’s too late, become your own wall police and remove postings that will make recruiters say, “ouch”.
  2. Your Privacy – While I do not have the technical aptitude to search through supposedly hidden social media profiles, I can almost guarantee you that someone else does. Please don’t ever post something that your pastor, mother, daughter, lawyer, or future government employer will hold against you. People have lost interviews, job offers and even jobs because of posts that they believed were “private”.
  3. Your Positivity – We all need to vent every now and then about politics, the weather, our favorite sports team, or our job search. This is when having a dog comes in handy. Man’s best friend loves you no matter what you vent about and he isn’t going to change his opinions about you as a result. A recruiter on the other hand who sees you venting online may be concerned that your negative attitude may get in the way of your new job. To be safe, keep it all cheery and happy online and save the venting for the dog.
  4. Your Polish – I remember watching 60 Minutes on Sunday night with my parents and listening to my dad opine about the commentators as if they could hear him. These days, people speak their mind in response to blogs and some opinions are better left unsaid, or simply “said better.” If you are going to post a response to a blog, do it respectfully and with finesse, and remember that every word you write may be scrutinized by HR Departments conducting a government style background check.
  5. Your Pictures – Take pictures frequently and post them especially on sites where they belong. Social media is all about being social and taking pictures to remind us of the good times. Joining Facebook, for example, without posting pictures is practically a sin. Posting pictures of you swinging from the rafters with a beer in one hand and a bong in the other is a bigger sin, especially if you’re in line for a government job.

With the advent of social media, we are all revealing far more information about ourselves than we ever wanted to, but it is because of this added information that people are finding jobs through networking. The key is to be SMART – Sensibly Minded and Rationally Thinking. If you have to ask someone whether a post may harm your online reputation,  err on the side of caution by rewriting it. In the long run, bagging your baggage can make you a more desirable candidate – a candidate that is worthy of more offers than just one!

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