Graduates! Are you as professional online as you are in your interview?

graduates throwing cap in the air social media accounts

As a fresh graduate or professional with less than five years of cumulative work experience, have you ever tried to do a Google search of yourself? If you haven’t tried it before, you should now and see what comes up.   


How do you feel about the results on the first page? Does it represent who you are and how you want to be known and seen? Do the first few search results communicate your personal and professional brand?   


Downing flaming sambuca shots in a tiki bar in Thailand may have been an appropriate profile picture at university, or your gap year but now imagine, it’s a recruiter or head-hunter that made that Google search. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to this later. 


Content Editor at UNSW, Craig Donaldson on the contrary argues, ‘UNSW Business School research has found there is little to no correlation for recruiters between a job candidate’s social media profile and potential on-the-job performance or retention levels.’ 


This may be true for recruiters but there is a potential for employers to take a different viewpoint. 


Usually, a simple Google search of your name is probably going to return your social media accounts as the first set of results. The reason is not far-fetched. Facebook, Twitter and the likes are some of the most popular sites on the web, thereby raising their chances of getting listed first.  However, it’s also likely that a prospective employer would search for you directly on any given platform too. 


This is a reality many graduates have never thought about it in terms of their brand, either personal or professional. 


Keep reading to find out why it’s important to review your socials and get clever when it comes to networking.

Fewer jobs, stronger competition  


So, let’s talk about getting employed. It’s becoming increasingly harder to get graduate jobs even with a good degree from a good higher institution. 


Gradaustrallia detail just how bleak the situation really is with the worst hit being the ‘accounting and professional services industry, with the average organisation receiving 5,949 applications for 225 job openings.’ This was taken from the AAGE 2019 report and highlights graduates need to do ‘all they can to prepare an outstanding application.’ 


The competition for the fewer available entry-level positions is now more intense than ever. This means you must go over and beyond to land a good job, much less, the job of your dreams. And applying for jobs is no longer what it used to be.  


It’s not just enough to submit your resume and go to bed, waiting for that interview. Andrew Friedman wrote on LinkedIn some time ago that the average employer spends only a measly six seconds on your resume. You can guess why: too many applications.   


So, before you even submit your resume or apply for any job, you should take some steps to position yourself better than the next graduate.  


Let’s get into it. 


Do you have an online presence?  


According to Business News Daily, ‘Most employers view LinkedIn as a secondary resume and other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as more personal‘ and in a recent survey, 47% of employers declared they aren’t interested in calling people for interviews if they can’t locate them online. 


If an employer is unable to locate your profile online, it raises questions. They could think you did that on purpose because you are hiding something. Or they believe you go by a funny nickname or pseudonym. Both situations are considered unprofessional, and that is not how you want to come across to your potential employer.

It’s not enough to have an online presence  


So, you decide to have an online presence, or you already have one. The next important question becomes the quality of your online presence. Being online alone won’t land you that dream job, there’s more to it. This takes us back to the introduction. 


There’s nothing wrong with maintaining a presence on most social media platforms. What matters is how you handle your online presence. In today’s world where the internet never forgets, what you put online can make you lose your current job or lose a potential one.  


Interestingly, The Manifest reports that the majority of companies (90%) consider a job candidate’s social media accounts when making recruiting choices, and 79% have rejected an applicant based on their social media activity. That’s not all.  


According to Business News Daily, Job seekers should anticipate that companies would scrutinise their social media profiles. As a job seeker, what does this mean for you? It means you cannot afford to post anything online that may directly oppose the industry you are interested to apply for work in. There are ways to be more intentional in using the internet, especially social media platforms, as you don’t know who may be looking or reading.   


What then are the exact steps you can take to be as professional online as you would be in an interview? The question is answered below.  


Maintain a professional online presence  


LinkedIn remains the most relevant professional social media platform. As a professional, you should have an optimised LinkedIn account where you can share your qualifications and achievements with potential employers who might want to check you out online. 


Adobe, who themselves have a huge graduate program, highlight the importance of using corporate headshots on LinkedIn as a tool to show off your professional talent, ‘Business headshots go a step further to emphasize confidence, competence, and the personality the subject brings to their work… Nearly everyone in the business world needs a headshot’ 


This applies to individuals that are currently employed too. To optimise your LinkedIn account, ensure you are using a clean professional headshot from a professional where possible and outline your details (qualifications, skills, work experience) clearly. Beyond that, you can easily apply for jobs through LinkedIn. You can read more here on this to find out how.    


Depending on your industry, you can also maintain a personal website. If you wanted to invest in this, it could serve as your online resume and give you a lot more control of how your information is presented. On your personal website, you can market yourself properly with a professional headshot and a well written profile. Web building platforms like Squarespace make it easy to create a website yourself even with no programming knowledge. You may also consider having a presence on relevant niche forums such as Quora, Substack, etc. There’s more.

Use your online presence to your advantage


Whether it’s on a professional platform like LinkedIn or on a social media platform like Facebook, don’t just be there to make up the numbers. Start and join meaningful conversations both on a professional and personal level.


Engage your friends and followers. Find ways to add value to other users on the platform. Many individuals have received the attention of their employers from the thoughts and ideas they have shared online. It’s one of the best ways to attract the right kind of opportunities as a job seeker or one currently employed. Regularly commenting on a prospective employer’s articles is also another way to stand out and make yourself known.


Whether you like it or not, your online presence is now an integral part of who you are. Therefore, you do yourself a lot of good when you stay professional online (both in appearance and conduct) as you would in an interview.   


This is not to say you can’t be fun or express your opinions freely online. Rather, it’s in the manner you conduct yourself and the kind of content you put on the internet.   


You could secure or lose a job through your online activities. This is true whether you are in Sydney or New York, in Ottawa or London.  


The bottom line is, you are an individual and that is what makes you special and employers want to hire real people, so don’t think you have to remove all existence of your personality. 


Just know that there is a high chance you will be judged on this by a prospective employer, particularly where competition is high, or an industry is known to be conservative. Whether that’s right or wrong, if you really want that job, it would be wise to ensure that the touch points an organisation has with you are positives one. 


To learn more about professional headshots and view headshot styles visit Hero Shot Photography 


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