Your online profile: the do’s and don’ts during your job search

Googled an ex? Chances are your potential new manager is doing the same to you.  More than 50% of employers use online resources to research candidates, according to a survey conducted by last year.
Creating an online profile to get you noticed (for the right reasons) is essential before you dip your toe in the job hunting water.  There will probably be at least traces of you online already, but it is crucial to manage this virtual reputation to present a professional personal brand.
Agency hiring managers, in particular, are looking to employ trendsetters who are innovating within their sectors.  An optimised online profile is an excellent way to showcase your talent, but presenting a top-notch portfolio can easily be reversed by a throw-away, but contentious forum post still lurking around.
Take stock of how you appear online and make the necessary changes to ensure that your reputation there is sparkling, and worthy of a new job offer with your ideal company.

The basics

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, make sure that anything that is connected to you online is something that you would be happy to discuss in an interview – including your opinions of previous employers.  Avoid using any slang or bad language, and stick to a professional name and surname format for email addresses.
Although the boundaries between professional and social networking online are continuously shifting, something that may be funny for your friends to view may not be appropriate in a professional context.  If you’re keen to impress online, you have to be accessible to those who look for you, so it may be necessary to lower your privacy settings on some networking sites.  But be prepared that the whole virtual world will be able to find you, so choose carefully the sites that you open yourself up for examination on.

So many options, so little time

There are hundreds of different social networking sites operating, and it can be a job in itself to maintain a profile on more than a handful.  Pick a few of the major, well-known sites to connect you to as wide an audience as possible.  Also include a couple of niche, sector-specific options in your social networking arsenal, to show an awareness of your industry happenings.
Ensure a consistent image across each site, optimising your key skills where you are able to be more creative.  It is vital to engage and interact to get noticed, make sure any contributions are thought-provoking rather than contentious.

Expert in your industry

The easiest way to be recognised as such is to create a blog, and update it regularly with newsworthy content and opinion relevant to your industry.  Include links to any online portfolios and work available for public consumption to wow any potential employers pre-interview. Make sure to link from your CV to your blog too.

Say cheese

The gateway to most online profiles is a picture, and first impressions count. Ditch the blurry photo of you on holiday for something a little more professional. It’s easy enough to take a smart-looking headshot with a point and shoot digital camera on timer.  Make sure that you are standing against a neutral background and strike a variety of poses, at least one will probably be decent.
Alternatively, if you are a creative professional you could design an avatar which shows off your skills and gives an insight into your personality.

You dark horse

Even with the highest privacy settings on social networking sites, there is always the risk that content and images can be made external.  If there is any reason that your interests should be kept very strictly private, it may be best to set up a different online persona for this purpose.  Use a nickname, or only your initials to create a profile separate to your professional face. This can be used to post to forums that are of personal interest, and to join groups and fan pages that you would rather not talk about in the workplace.
To avoid an inappropriate photo costing the job before you’ve even been interviewed, take the time to optimise your online profile pre-job search.