First impressions are important when transitioning from Army active duty and are not always limited to an interview setting or meeting an employer at a job fair. While job searching, a resume, cover letter, attire, and first introduction give future employers impressions of what kind of person they are hiring and what type of employee they would be. Yet, with such easy access to the Internet, future employers could be making judgments far before candidates meet them face-to-face.
Social media profiles can range in privacy settings. Even then, social media footprints are forever online. With a quick comb through a search engine results page, some employers could find information online about a candidate. It's up to job seekers to be sure that what employers find online professionally reflects their best image.
Personal pictures, blog comments, shared content, and more may not always reflect who a candidate may be as an employee, but the hiring official will make their own determination. While a candidate may be perfectly comfortable with their personal online footprint, an employer may see it as "digital dirt."
A transitioning Soldier needs to consider this as they look for civilian employment. A Soldier cleans their boots, uniform, and work area in order to prepare for an inspection, so why wouldn't they clean up their online footprint for an upcoming job search?
How to clean up social media:
Review social media accounts and be sure they are on the strictest privacy settings. On accounts, like Facebook, users can view their profile from the perspective of a "non-friend" user to see what information they publically have showing. Go through all photos/albums and be sure to delete any photos with inappropriate gestures (like profanity), unprofessional attire, drinking or partying images, and any other content that isn't employer friendly. Then, go through previous online statuses and delete ones that aren't professional in nature. Be aware that employers are relying more heavily on the Internet to post open positions, accept online resumes, and use it to research applicants.
How to avoid not being hired from an online profile:
A candidate does not want to give a company a reason to second-guess bringing them in for an interview or hiring them. Never post about drug use, excessive partying, or problems at the office. Avoid swearing online and always act in a professional manner. Employers do not want to see future employees complaining on social media about other people, their job, etc. Employers look for polished and professional people that they believe will fit well into their company's culture and their team.
Most employers don't have hundreds of openings for a particular role. They may only have one or two. Candidates should ensure that their online footprint does not hinder them being the best candidate for the position. Candidates should take the time to clean up their online presence, create their resume, review potential interview questions, research information about the companies they are interested in, purchase appropriate interview apparel, and put together a professional portfolio.
Need help transitioning to the civilian sector? The Soldier for Life - Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) can help. Learn how to create a resume, use online channels to search for jobs, prepare for an interview, and more. Transitioning Soldiers are encouraged to start the program 18 months prior to transition or 24 months prior for retirees. To find out a Soldier's eligibility, visit www.sfl-tap.army.mil or contact a local SFL-TAP Center
Editor's Note: This article was originally published as "Employer's research may include personal online info - What's your digital footprint?" on September 11, 2008 in the Turret by Julia Park.