What is a digital footprint?
Your digital footprint consists of everything recorded in your online life. It’s your online reputation, your personal brand. This includes profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, personal blogs and websites, technical/professional articles you have published, tweets you have sent, and so on.
Why is it important?
A recent study by Microsoft found that 70% of employers check a candidate’s digital footprint during the recruitment process. Not only does your digital footprint give a potential employer an idea of who you are, it shows them how other people see you. It demonstrates your communication skills. On the other hand, a lack of a digital footprint could lead an employer to view you as “out of touch” or lacking digital savvy.
Does your profile or blog have a wide reach among professional contacts and/or does it demonstrate your professional expertise? Or does it show pictures of you enjoying yourself a little too much at that St. Patrick’s Day party? Your goal is to be able to show an employer that you have a fully developed online presence that supports what you claim on your resume, and to eliminate anything that portrays you in a negative light.
What can I do?
First, attempt to view yourself the way an HR Manager would. Google and Bing your own name, for a start. Are there many people with your same name, which can cause confusion? Is there less-than-complimentary information displayed? Do you use proper spelling and grammar, or is your profile peppered with slang or profanity? These are all issues that are solvable.
Second, if you don’t find much information about yourself, get to work putting yourself out there. Make sure you have a full profile filled out on websites such as LinkedIn, and take the time to make connections there. Tweet in a professional way. Participate in online discussions. Connect with people who can vouch for your qualifications, and ask them to do so. Publish articles on a personal blog or professional association website. And so on.
Third, clean up errors or negative information. Make your Facebook profile private. (Though, some employers are starting to demand access to those.) Get rid of unflattering photos or connections to people/organizations that would reflect poorly on you. Make sure you don’t convey derogatory comments about former employers or co-workers, and don’t share confidential information about them either. In a nutshell, don’t put anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want an employer to see.
Lastly, consider using an email address that is a variation of your name, or at least one that sounds professional. An email address of “firstname.lastname@example.org” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
A solid digital footprint can make the difference between landing that interview and being tossed in the “thanks, but no” pile. Make sure that your digital footprint portrays you in the best possible light and demonstrates your skills, education and professionalism. It takes a bit of effort, but will be very much worth your while.