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The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Digital Footprint

Strategic use of social media is an important part of today's job search. In a job market where most job applications take place online, it is important to use all tools at your disposal to make a good impression.

The days of finding a job by thumbing through newspaper classifieds or looking for “Help Wanted” signs are long gone. Recruitment, like all other aspects of life, has been radically altered by technology and the rise of the Internet.

Companies today are proactively searching for the best talent online—and 60% of employers will review a candidate’s social media channels before they make a hiring decision.

For savvy jobseekers, it’s important to understand how employers use technology to evaluate job candidates—and how you can turn your online presence into an asset, not a liability.

Your Digital Footprint Is Your Online Reputation

If you’re new to thinking about how your digital footprint impacts your job search, you might think “out of sight, out of mind”, right? After all, you might assume that if a recruiter searches for your name in Google and finds nothing (and most importantly, nothing negative), you’ve done everything you can and might as well stop there.

But taking this approach means you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to actively make a positive impression. In fact, you could even be hurting your chances, with 2 in 5 employers saying they’re less likely to offer an interview to someone they can’t find any trace of online.

Jump on industry-focused social networks

Recruiters are constantly on the lookout for talent. Companies want to find the brightest and best in their field, but in order to be considered among the cream of the crop, recruiters need to know who you are.

That’s why optimizing your digital footprint is a critical step to having recruiters knock at your door.

If you’re looking for a new job, now is the time to get active on your industry’s social channels and networks. This is where recruiters can (and will) look for talent.

What channels will help recruiters notice you?

When you’re building your online presence, the most useful networks will depend on your industry. Here’s some examples of major channels:

  • GrowthHackers is a community for marketers
  • StackOverflow is a community for developers
  • Github is an online platform where developers share work they’ve completed
  • Dribbble is a community for designers to share their work
  • Behance is a site where creative professionals can build their online portfolio

Even if you can’t find a social channel dedicated to your industry, you can use other networks to connect to professionals just like you. For example:

  • Slack hosts communities that allow you to connect to industry colleagues. There’s #people for HR professionals and people managers, #fintechfolk for those in FinTech, and the self-explanatory #womeninsales, just to name a few.
  • Medium is an online magazine platform where anyone can quickly establish themselves as an expert in their field. You can start publishing articles by yourself, or through one of Medium’s popular “publications” (which will expand your reach and influence).
  • LinkedIn, the godfather of work-related social networks, provides many opportunities to get noticed. The platform hosts industry-focused groups; for example, The Non-Profit Network or The Project Manager Group. LinkedIn also gives you a platform to write and share articles with your professional network, which can establish you as a leader in your field.

Can social media really help you find a new job?

The short answer is ‘yes’. Here’s the long answer:

Nothing in life is guaranteed, but building a strong online network won’t hurt your chances of finding a job. You probably already know how important networking is to your search. Think of social media as Networking 2.0. You never know when a recruiter is in awe of your online portfolio, or when a contact you made in a Slack community is able to connect you with a role they know is opening up soon.

The great thing about building and leveraging your online persona is that it gives employers a more comprehensive picture of you as a candidate. Recruiters are actively discussing how to use sites like Github and Slack to find their next great hire, so take advantage of this. In the traditional resume, you write about the work you’ve done in the past. But with a platform like Github, employers can actually see that work in action.

How can you stand out?

Many job seekers use these channels to share work and network. How do you stand out and make an impression on the right people?

We recommend focusing your efforts on one or two channels where you can share your work and accomplishments. Once you’ve chosen your channel, get involved and visible as soon as possible. Make sure that the content you share is your best work and that it will provide value to others. This will help you start to build a following, which can make it easier for recruiters to find you (and see you as a desirable candidate).

If you can, your goal should be to get to the right platform early and become a ‘rockstar’ contributor right from the start. Compounding effects propel popular users right to the top, and the top 10% will stay there. It takes time and effort, but it’s well worth your while to aim high.

Your goal? Get to the right platform early, and rock it–no matter what it takes.

Keep personal social profiles private

The benefits of optimizing your presence on career-related social channels are obvious, but what about the platforms you use every day to keep in touch with friends and family? How could your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts impact your job search?

Remember, recruiters and hiring managers will research you online, and they will come across your social media accounts if they aren’t private. One study found that 36% of companies had disqualified candidates after seeing their online profiles or search engine results.

You might have heard horror stories about people who didn’t get hired because their profile picture showed them enjoying illegal substances, or because they had shared offensive material. These situations likely didn’t surprise you. However, some online behaviour that can trip up candidates may be less obvious.

According to a 2017 Jobvite survey of recruiters, the following were also big turn-offs when it came to candidates’ social media accounts:

  • 48% viewed spelling or grammar errors as a negative quality
  • 19% reported disliking candidates who showed off their wealth or big purchases
  • 7% said selfies are a no-no

Why are employers researching you online? They want to get a feel for whether you’re a good fit for their organization. They aren’t necessarily looking to ‘dig up dirt’ on you, but to see if your qualifications match up with your CV, to gauge whether you’re a well-rounded individual, and to get a sense of who you are as a person. For example, recruiters in the Jobvite survey were likely to be impressed by examples of your writing or design work, or evidence of your volunteer or community work.

Should you keep your personal profiles private? Yes, but they should still be searchable. Some hiring managers find it odd if they can’t find any online information about a candidate, and it may turn them off or raise suspicion. Even if it means you need to develop two separate online identities, it’s worth taking the time to set up a professional presence.

We recommend being clear and intentional about which social networks you want to connect to your professional career, and which you don’t. If your account is open to the public, ensure that you would be comfortable with prospective employer seeing it. Don’t post anything offensive, explicit, or illegal, and present yourself in a professional and engaging manner. Be sure to highlight your achievements, and present a consistent picture of your experience and accomplishments across platforms.

Don’t publicly post anything that you wouldn’t share with a potential manager or supervisor. Save that for your private accounts (and spend some time researching privacy settings to make sure your posts really are private!).

Catch Employers’ Attention With New Tech

When online tools were first introduced in the world of recruitment, online applications and email were king. But the landscape has changed, and employers are exploring even more convenient ways to communicate with job seekers.

Texting and messaging with the hiring manager? You bet

Have you ever played phone tag with a recruiter, or waited hours for an employer to respond via email about interview times? Have you ever wondered if there’s an easier way to connect with hiring managers?

Employers are wising up to the ways that many adults now expect to communicate, and now use mobile-friendly communication methods to stay in touch with candidates. Over 90% of American adults have a cellphone, and 47% of millennials, who now make up the bulk of the work force, use their phones for their job search. With a smartphone, a job seeker can search and apply for jobs from almost everywhere.

Facebook has recently launched a feature that lets job seekers apply to postings via Messenger, which means untraditional application processes are hitting the mainstream.

If you’ve never connected with a recruiter via text or messaging before, this might feel bizarre. Surveys show that younger employees are more comfortable with the idea of communicating this way, but that people of all age groups still prefer contact via email or phone. However, as instant messaging becomes an increasingly common part of the hiring process, it’s important to get comfortable with the idea.

Stand out for the right reasons

There are certain rules you are expected to follow when communicating with a potential employer, and they apply to instant messaging. You should:

  • Treat this as a business communication, like you would with an email
  • Avoid text speak, abbreviations, and emojis
  • Express your enthusiasm
  • Expect a back-and-forth exchange (you don’t need to write an essay-length response to their first message)
  • Review your text or message before hitting ‘send’ to make sure there are no spelling, grammar, or autocorrect mistakes
  • Keep your communications to standard business hours to avoid interrupting the recruiter or hiring manager when they’re trying to relax
  • Always make sure you’re sending the message to the right person–especially if you’ve been communicating back-and-forth with multiple people

While this may sound like common sense, remember: the nature of instant messaging–and the fact that you’re likely used to messaging personal contacts–can make it easy to slip up.

Mastering the art of messaging with an employer can be a great way to demonstrate that your communication skills are a match for their modern organization. After all, when so many teams rely on IMs, Slack, and collaborative online channels to work together remotely, showing that you’re able to communicate professionally using these methods can help put you ahead of the competition.

Some recruiters have started adding links to invite candidates to their Slack channel. As a job seeker, you can also add a Blitz link to your resume so employers can instantly connect with you. This avoids email delays or missed phone calls, making it easier for a recruiter to invite you in for an interview.

VisualCV allows you to add custom fields (like that Blitz link we just mentioned) to your online CV or downloadable PDF. The easier you can make life for employers, the easier it will be for them to envision you working for their company.

Fire Up Your CV With Video

We have noticed an increase in the number of users who choose to include video in their VisualCV profiles. It can be a creative way to show off your personality and make a unique impression.

According to one study, most employers are receptive to the idea. 89% said they would watch a video if it was submitted as part of the application. When asked to consider why they might find value in watching a candidate’s video, the primary reason was to assess a candidate’s professionalism and demeanour.

Videos can add a personalized element to your digital presence. As a culture, we’re highly driven by visual cues, and humans are hardwired to respond to stories. A video is an engaging and dynamic way to highlight your skills and relevant chapters of your career.

3 things to know when using videos in your profile

A video is not a replacement for your CV. However, it can be a useful supplement. If you decide to go for it, here are three things to take into consideration:

  1. Your video should be short (60-90 seconds) and engaging. Avoid a long-winded recitation of your work history, which can instantly alienate potential employers.
  2. Think carefully about which skills you can best demonstrate in video format. For example, a teacher could share a lesson plan or show their teaching in action. For someone applying for an internal business role, you could highlight your communication skills by sharing a presentation or speech you’ve made at a conference.
  3. Think outside the box by creating videos in different formats. Try online tools like Moovly or Biteable to put together an animated short. Non-creative types can use templates to create sophisticated video presentations. A project management professional could put together an engaging presentation of their most successful implementation, or a recent grad could use video to contextualize their volunteer work for employers.

Whatever format you choose, this is an opportunity to use video to convey a message that can’t be shown on your traditional resume. If a video doesn’t have anything additional to offer, then it may not be worth your–or a hiring manager’s–time. As always, you should be thoughtful when creating a video for your online profile.

CV video dos and don’ts

Do:

  • Plan your video. What do you want to communicate? What’s the most dynamic and engaging way to get that information across?
  • Practice. Remember, this is your chance to impress potential employers. If you’re creating a new video from scratch (rather than uploading an existing conference speech), take this opportunity to perfect your delivery.
  • Be aware that videos tend to be more successful in some industries rather than others. Career Coach Elizabeth Bacchus believes they tend to be more successful in creative or customer facing roles in industries such as PR, marketing, and media.
  • Ask a few trusted people to review your video before you add it to your profile or send it to an employer. While you may think you’re a comedic genius, others can provide a reality check. Ask them to be thoughtful and honest with you when giving feedback, and avoid becoming a viral sensation for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t:

  • Put up an unedited or low-quality video and expect recruiters to be blown away. Video CVs are becoming more common. It’s unrealistic to expect the video submission alone to impress an employer, and other candidates may be producing theirs to a high standard.
  • Improvise. While you may think you can just sit in front of your webcam or cellphone and rely on your charm, it’s not worth the risk. Write a script, even if it’s only a few bullet points you know you want to cover.
  • Behave unprofessionally. Susan M. Heathfield notes that this is a common pet peeve for employers receiving videos from candidates. Don’t giggle your way through talking about your skills, don’t dress like you’re not in an interview (beach, sleep, or club wear), and don’t waste hiring managers’ time by talking about irrelevant personal details. The last thing you want is for your video to turn away an interested employer.

When in doubt, stick to a traditional CV and portfolio. If you’re shy or uncomfortable on camera, lack the technical skills to make a high quality video, or don’t have the time to put something engaging together, it’s okay to pass on video CVs. Just because your phone comes equipped with recording capabilities doesn’t mean you need to use them during your job hunt.

Pause Before You Post

It may sound cliché, but think of social networks and online channels as the 21st-century equivalent of a town square. What you choose to post, say, and present to the world through your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram will be seen by others.

People will form opinions of you based on your digital footprint. So before you post that beach selfie or publish an all-caps political rant, ask yourself: are you comfortable with the whole world seeing this? What impression would an employer have if they stumbled across this post?

We’re used to moving faster than ever, composing tweets on the go, posting pictures of our brunch before we’ve eaten it, and responding to incoming messages as fast as we can. But taking a moment to pause and consider the public impression you’re making is crucial to maintaining your digital reputation and impressing your dream employer.

Google yourself right now. What would an employer see if they searched for you today? If you don’t like the results, don’t panic. Optimizing your digital footprint can take time and effort—but it is an important part of creating the best first impression possible.

As a first step, a clean and modern VisualCV is a great way to present yourself professionally online!

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