See All Jobs

How Your Online Profile Can Sabotage Your Career

Social Media – Your Online Profile

Social media is an amazing tool. Using it in the right way can hook you up with the right people, in the right place, at the right time. However, like most good things, social media can be a real killer for job seekers who use it inappropriately. The practice of employers looking for background information about job candidates on social networking web sites is growing at an enormous rate.

Common reasons for rejecting applicants include poor communication skills (poor grammar or spelling), inappropriate photos, information about drinking/drug use, lying about qualifications/experience, unprofessional screen names and offensive comments. If you are looking for a job, you need to be aware of your digital footprint – the information connected with your name online.

Companies and recruiters routinely check search engine results to learn more about potential employees. This suggests that job seekers should be thinking as much about their online profile as their interview attire. Questionable content and social media red flags can take a promising candidate out of the running, but the savvy job seeker can cultivate a positive digital presence.

Facebook and other online social networks are the sites of choice for those who wish to connect, communicate and share personal information. However, you need to be aware of the pitfalls of an online presence.

Use of social networking sites by employers and recruiters to “screen” potential employees, is a popular and useful method enabling an additional “reference check” of your character and potential fit.

Ensure what they find is going to present you in a positive light, by following the below 7 MUSTS.


1. You MUST Review Your Online Identity

With the Internet at our personal disposal, it is now easier than ever to put yourself out there and create an image of yourself that you can distribute across a wide audience.

Search for yourself on Google and Facebook. You’ve probably done a vanity Google search before, but if not, now’s the time. Just log out of your Google accounts or use a browser where you’re not logged in (Google personalises results based on your account activity) and search for your name. Don’t bother going more than a few pages deep, and make note of what you see.

At least one of the top five search results for your name should relate to your professional interests. LinkedIn has high visibility in Google search results, so maintaining a comprehensive, up-to-date LinkedIn profile helps significantly.  Create a short, interesting and readable profile for LinkedIn. Join a few industry specific LinkedIn groups and participate in them.  The more active you are in those groups, the more profile views you’ll have because people will want to know more about you.

If you find information you feel could be detrimental to your candidacy or career, look into getting it removed and be sure you have an answer ready to counter or explain your “digital dirt.”

2. You MUST Always Put Your Best Foot Forward

Selling yourself successfully means that you take full responsibility for who you are and what you do.  You lead yourself to success by staying true to your values.

Use your social media profiles to demonstrate your strengths and signal to employers that you are the best candidate for the job. Everyone has unique interests outside of their work life, and your social media profiles can shine a positive light on these hobbies. Post freely about accomplishments, such as marathon running or charity work. If an employer stumbles across your personal profiles, your unique interests can be a strong complement to your professional credentials.

3. You MUST Limit Negative Content

With privacy settings constantly changing on Facebook and other social sites, it’s better to be safe than sorry about what you share on social media. After reviewing your social media profiles to make sure your content consists of information you would like to share with employers, use tools to scan what remains.

Be careful about what you do, how you behave, and what you say in a public, social forum – especially when job-hunting. Don’t leave yourself open to professional scrutiny with possibly questionable photos, comments, or other content.

4. You MUST Not Hang Around With The Wrong Crowd

Be careful who you are connected with. Employers will not judge you solely based on your connections, but having a wild child as an online friend posting inappropriate status updates and photos can affect your chances of getting that dream job.

Pay attention to how you interact with your friends and how they work with you. Talk to your friends about who is reading your profile and/or change your settings to restrict who can post/tag what.

5. You MUST Be Discreet

With the knowledge that the information about you on the internet may be used in an employment-related context, you may wish to be diligent in your reputation management. What you choose to share can tell employers several things about your aptitude in these areas and more.

Every job requires that an employee have some level of discernment, discretion and decision-making aptitude. Choose carefully what information you share about your work/personal life, you should not to be an open book on social media.

On the flip side, a common problem many job seekers run into is putting too much out there on social media. While it might seem like a great idea to share some embarrassing photos from your best friends stag night, your current or potential employer might not appreciate the humour.

6. You MUST Leave No Room For Confusion

If you have a common name, you risk being mistaken for someone else online. Rather than taking the blame for others’ mistakes, look for ways to differentiate yourself.

If this happens to you, you have the option to appeal to the site owner or forum moderators to ask them to step in on your behalf, or at least free up your identity so you can take ownership of it. Some sites, will take the issue seriously, and if the user really is violating their terms of community policy, they’ll take action.

Familiarise yourself with the abuse policies and terms of service of the site or services in question, and take the appropriate action.

7. You MUST Try To Maintain The Image You’ve Built

Maintaining your online presence takes time.

By now, you’ve done your homework to find out what other people find when they look for your profile.

Your accomplishments and career trajectory will change, and potentially even your target audience, and your profile should reflect those things. Don’t just create a social media profile, stand back, and see who follows you. Connect with thought leaders and companies of interest in your industry, participate in conversations, get involved in Facebook and LinkedIn groups, and share interesting content and ideas of your own to position yourself as knowledgeable and in-touch with what’s going on in your field.

Update your LinkedIn profile with your interests and skills, not just your work history. Add some relevant interests to Facebook and leave them public.

Upload a good-looking profile photo to your Facebook, Twitter, and Google profiles. Use every opportunity to showcase your skills, talents and interests. The goal is to create a place for people to find you, and make sure it’s conveying a cohesive brand message. Position yourself by providing the information that you want hiring managers to know about you, and remember you for.

Bottom Line

Decide how you intend to use social media and to whom you will allow access (especially on Facebook).  You don’t necessarily need to completely sanitise all your social media profiles – because companies want to hire real people.  However, if you want to ensure a potential employer never rejects you, make sure your online social profile depicts the type of employee a company would want to hire.

Move forward with your shiny, new, professional online persona, but remember!

“If you don’t want it to be public, don’t post it”


Cork Office

CareerWise Recruitment. EastGate Village, EastGate, Little Island, Cork.

Phone: +353 (0) 21 206 1900