As social media is becoming more and more engrained in society, employers are using it to evaluate potential candidates for jobs. Susan Kaleita, who works in the University of Arizona Career Services Department, believes a job candidate's digital footprint can set them apart from other candidates -- in good ways and in bad ways.
"Pretty much every recruiter is going to search people's names on the Internet to see what they find before they invite someone for an interview," she said. "Or, before they make a hiring decision."
She explained with more people online, and more forms of sharing information online, it's important to be careful about what you post.
"More and more the lines are blurred between people's personal and professional lives," Kaleita said. "So you need to make sure that on your personal social media you are still presenting yourself professionally."
In her eyes, employers taking a look at a candidate's social media profiles is a part of the interview process. It's a way for employers to get to know someone, before really getting to know them -- kind of like a pre-interview. So, she stressed the importance of maintaining a personal brand.
"A consistent brand professionally that shows you as the kind of professional that you want to be in your career," she said. "That's consistent across online, on paper, and in person."
Marian Arthur recently graduated from the University of Arizona. She isn't going into a tech field -- rather, she's going to study and intern abroad, then look for post-grad opportunities. Nevertheless, she's focused on having a strong digital footprint.
"You're presenting yourself on social media," she said. "As well as on LinkedIn and on your resume."
She explained it's not just about what people post -- it's about how people act online as well.
"It's about the likes, it's about the sharing," Arthur said. "You're sharing yourself, and you're presenting yourself in the way that you want to on social media."
For years, Arthur said people were constantly warned what not to post on social media -- photos of underage drinking, anything that showed illegal activities, pictures or posts that a person wouldn't feel comfortable showing their parents or teachers. However, despite these warnings, she said she still sees people in her network post completely unprofessional things.
"I would notice it out of the number of posts out of my friends, I'd say 50-50," she said. "They don't think of that as something that future employers are going to look at. Especially if they are freshmen, they might not even be thinking of future employers yet."
Both Arthur and Kaleita advise professionals of all ages be on LinkedIn, and make posts there and on other websites that are relevant to their specific industry.
"So many companies are asking for your LinkedIn," Arthur said. "And you don't want to be cut out of the loop just because of your age."
Kaleita agreed, suggesting it's even more important for more seasoned professionals to showcase their achievements online for potential employers to see.
"The farther you are in your career, it's probably even more important to have positive, professional things online about you," she said.
A study conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management backs them up, and offers advice on ways job seekers can improve their digital footprints.
- Have complete professional profiles
- Keep public content professional
- Join social media groups that are relevant to the person's career
- Post about relevant accomplishments and skills
- Frequently update professional profiles
- Have connections and followers relevant to the person's career
Kaleita said she understands why some people may be nervous to post personal things online, from accomplishments to special moments in life. But she said it's such an important part of the world now, and people shouldn't be scared to put things out there.
"Don't be afraid of putting things online," she said. "Think about your goals in your career and start putting stuff out there that reflects you as that kind of professional."
One thing she advises people:
"Google yourself. See what comes up, look through the first couple of pages of search results and do an audit," Kaleita said. "Ask yourself, is this presenting you as the type of professional that you want to be in your career?"
Her main point, be active in creating a strong digital footprint that representative of the type of professional you are -- because people are looking.
"They are looking," she said. "We see studies that say about 90% plus of employers always look online to see what kind of social media presence people have."