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Ensuring your Digital Footprint Leaves a Good Impression

By Joe O'Brien, on 29 May 2020

Read time: 5 minutes

Written by Lee Pike, Careers Consultant at UCL Careers.

If a prospective employer is checking you online, think about what they might find.  Have you ever been embarrassed by a social media post you wrote or regretted a photo you were tagged in? The good news is you can, and should, control what recruiters see.

There are approximately 45 million users of social media in the UK in 2020, which equates to approximately two thirds of the population.  Regularly engaging with others is generally seen as positive by employers. It shows you’re tech savvy but also gives prospective employers a more rounded picture of who you are.

With increased recruitment costs averaging £3,400 per person, many prospective employers are using social media to proactively undertake targeted recruitment, predominantly using LinkedIn.  But scarily, many employers are also using someone’s online presence to vet prospective candidates (as well as existing employees!).  Therefore, it’s important to ensure your digital footprint leaves a lasting positive impression.

Thankfully, what you project online is within your control and the way to do this is relatively straight-forward – it’s just realising it’s necessary in the first place. Once you start to manage your digital self, you can make sure that you are presenting a professional but also personal persona.

Steps to managing your online presence

  1. Search for yourself.

The simplest way to start is to use a search engine on yourself (and if you don’t see anything, try searching ‘name + UCL’).  It’s important to not only look at the initial page/subsequent pages of results, but also at the images and videos.

Does what you find worry you?  Put yourself into the shoes of a recruiter – does it worry you now?  Is there anything you wouldn’t want your parents to see?!

Conversely, you may prefer not to have an online presence or your search has zero results. Think to yourself – what might a recruiter think if they see no online presence?  Could it be interpreted to mean you have something to hide? As such, is having no online presence a positive thing?  How might you have an online presence that is positive for a recruiter to see?

Understanding what others can (or cannot) see about you means managing your professional and personal presence is made easier.

If you see something you don’t like or is no longer true for you, can you remove it?  If you see something which someone else posted, ask them to take it down (or contact the owner/administrator if they don’t).

  1. Limit who can see what.

An easy way to limit what others can see is to check your privacy settings. You might decide to limit your ‘fun’ online media so only friends, connections or approved followers can see it, making it invisible to the general public.  Anything negative should be made private (or better deleted).

You might be connected to, and hence associated with, something that is sending out negative or unprofessional points of view.  Remember you can leave certain people/organisations/groups and remove any followers you feel might be detrimental to your online persona.

Untag yourself from photos and avoid any bad language, ill-advised comments or jokes.  Remember, there is no distinction between what you say in real life and what is said online.

  1. Create a positive digital impression.

The great thing is, you can control what people see and there are many ways to do this.  Here is just selection you can try:

  • As it says on their website, ‘LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet.’ Don’t miss out. Use LinkedIn for your professional online presence.
  • Use a professional looking head & shoulders profile picture – people with a profile pic on LinkedIn are 14 times more likely to get clicked on.
  • Be selective about who you follow. Think about that positive message you want to convey and remember, this is a professional network platform, not a social network platform, so don’t simply follow friends.
  • You can try creating an online portfolio such as starting a blog, creating your own website, or design an infographic about your interests and experiences. These can demonstrate your digital and content producing skills.
  • Engage positively in discussions, forums and debates. By taking part you’re expanding your presence and making others more aware of you. You’re also leaving behind positive digital footprint impressions.

Next steps

Why not set aside some time within the next week or so to start this process.  Search for yourself and see what you do (or do not) find.  Think about the results in terms of a recruiter and think – does this represent me in a good way? If not, what actions do I need to take to improve things?

Remember – you are in control of your own online presence. You only have one attempt at making a good first impression – make it count!

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