1/6/2016 by Katherine Memery
The Independent recently published a study revealing that at least thirty per cent of UK employers are investing in social media screening to aid their recruitment processes. In the US this figure is, somewhat shockingly, higher at ninety per cent. Nevertheless, given the rapidly expanding influence of social media, it wouldn’t be surprising if the UK were to reach a similar level within the next few years. However, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern for most people, especially if they have taken precautionary steps to identify and manipulate their digital footprint.
The term ‘digital footprint’ is complex and can be split into two categories: passive and active. A passive footprint is created when data is obtained from a person without their knowledge. For instance, when information such as your IP address is stored by websites that you visit online and is ultimately out of your control. Your active footprint, however, is deliberate content that you post online – usually in the form of social media, blogs or discussion boards. It is this kind of digital footprint that potential employers may utilise in their vetting process. Every time you post a boozy Ibiza album, tweet a controversial joke, or follow a politically motivated page, you are adding to your digital footprint. The aforementioned study suggests that Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, with seventy-five per cent of recruiters using it for candidate selection.
So how can we identify and conceal our digital footprint? The first step you can take in tracking your online profile is a simple Google search of your name and any other relevant personal details. Facebook and LinkedIn have a ‘view as’ facility which allows you to preview your profile from an outsiders perspective, which should give you some insight into what personal information is available publicly. Innovative programs such as Reppler can also be used to monitor all of your social media accounts for image consistency and privacy. To begin managing your digital footprint, you need to configure your privacy settings appropriately. You could also employ the ‘pseudo-name’ method often used by teachers to hide from their snooping students. Essentially this involves changing your Facebook or Twitter real name to a nickname so that your friends can find you, but the prying eyes of employers cannot. A quick Google search of ‘social media employment’ will return thousands of articles detailing individuals who have been fired or even sued over a Facebook post. This shows that privacy settings are not only for job seekers but also for those currently in employment.
It’s not all hide and seek though! There are, in fact, ways that you can capitalise on your digital footprint. As an employee or a potential job candidate (especially), you don’t want to conceal everything. Networks such as LinkedIn should be open and accessible for recruiters to explore your most positive attributes. Essentially, it comes down to separating your personal and professional lives online. You should think of LinkedIn as a shop window and your profile as the window display. In a competitive job market, it is crucial to exhibit yourself at the optimum level. Common, yet easily resolved, online blunders include typos and grammar mistakes. In the same way that you would check your CV before submitting it to an employer, your LinkedIn profile should ideally be proofread by a member of your family or friends. Furthermore, each element of your profile should be completed comprehensively. Missing profile pictures, incomplete job descriptions and minimal connections scream ‘sloth’, and can damage your reputation rather than enhance it. Each feature, including the profile picture, should be tailored to complement your profile.
Be aware of your own online presence and take the necessary steps to market yourself as an attractive and lucrative product worth the purchase. Don’t be naive and think that the big boss won’t ‘Facebook stalk’ you.
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