Will Your Online Presence Hurt Your Job Chances?

Posted By Terri Williams on November 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm
Will Your Online Presence Hurt Your Job Chances?

The internet makes it easy for job-seekers to check out employers, but it makes it equally convenient for employers to return the favor. However, companies aren’t just looking for candidates online, they’re also reviewing a candidate’s online presence through social media and any other digital footprint they can find.

The job interview still is undoubtedly the most important part of the job-hunting process, and candidates should be prepared for tricky job interview questions. Smart candidates also know to avoid letting helicopter parents sabotage their job chances. But getting to the interview phase may be dependent on a candidate’s online presence.

A recent Rasmussen College survey finds that 33% of employers review a job candidate’s online brand. Below are selected excerpts from the survey, along with explanations and suggestions from our team of experts.

When are employers checking a candidate’s online presence?

7% No standard practice, but we check
27% Upon review of job application
27% After an interview
3% As part of a background check


While the specific time an employer may look at a candidate’s brand may vary, rest assured that most employers will check sooner or later, according to Melissa Wagner, career services adviser at Rasmussen College. Wagner tells GoodCall, “Whether it is to look at trends on social media, professional groups or associations, verify information, or a simple Google search, you can count on someone taking a peek at your footprint at some point in the hiring process.”

Where are employers checking a candidate’s social media profile?

72% LinkedIn
54% Facebook
35% Google search
19% Twitter


So why is LinkedIn so popular? Ryan Naylor, founder of LocalWork.com, tells GoodCall, “LinkedIn is a recruiters’ playground. It’s the first place they will go to see your profile, connections and endorsements.”

Because recruiters and hiring managers will also perform a Google search, Naylor advises job candidates to search for their own names in advance. “You need to see what will be on the first page of those search results before your potential employer.” Social profiles will probably rank at or near the top of a Google search, and Naylor says it’s important to make sure they are consistent with the personal brand the candidate is trying to project.

Wagner notes that there are a variety of Google searches that a potential employer can perform, so candidates should also peruse each one. Some of the combinations include:

  • Name + Past/Current Employer
  • Name + Degree
  • Name + City/State
  • Name + College
  • Name

Besides the standard social media sites, Naylor recommends that candidates take advantage of a free blogging platform, like Medium, as a way to share insights. “Write 3 to 4 articles demonstrating your opinion and recommendations for an industry problem, and this will showcase your soft skills.” Naylor adds, “Many times, with the right titles, this blog will rank very high in search results for your own name.”

What are employers looking for in an online presence?

59% Post
51% Groups
45% People
44% Images
35% Interests


Jane Trnka, SPHR, executive director of the Career Resource Center at Rollins College Crummer School of Business, tells GoodCall, “The online brand should highlight a candidate’s skills, experience and contributions made in business and/or community environments.” As such, Trnka advises candidates, “Include results and benefits to show that not only can you do the job, but you are successful at accomplishing associated goals.”

Naylor adds that hiring managers are also looking at profiles to observe a candidate’s mastery of soft skills.  “If you want to build a strong online brand, think about how you can best demonstrate leadership and aptitude soft skills.” Naylor says.

The importance of a candidate’s online brand

Some people may think that that their social media sites are personal, and should be off limits to potential employers. But Wagner explains that employees are an extension of the company. “Because of that, they really want to ensure company fit, along with all of those items listed above and because of the digital age, this includes your digital footprint or online brand.”

Because it costs so much to interview, hire, and train employees, Wagner says companies are trying to prevent costly turnovers. “The ease of access to this public information can help employers differentiate candidates and aid in ensuring the right fit from every perspective.”

Good profiles can help a candidate. According to Trnka, for LinkedIn and other professional sites, the online presence can be most helpful when a person is professional and comments or articles are well-written and error-free.”

But on any social media site, Trnka warns that comments that are negative or socially unacceptable can damage a candidate’s standing.

So how can college students and grads build an effective online brand? Trnka shares several tips:

  • Start with looking at what is already online and clean it up if it’s inappropriate.  Pictures, comments, etc., should be removed if they may negatively impact your search.
  • Create a strong LinkedIn profile. Include projects, volunteer work, travel experiences, languages, etc. that will let the reader realize the well-rounded value you will bring to their organization.
  • Online articles you’ve written, a video, or an online portfolio can highlight skills and talents. When professionally done, any one of these can generate a lot of positive interest.
  • Supplement the online brand with a strong resume, business cards, joining associations and getting out to network.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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