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Online Social Media Identity Management

Employers are increasingly using online social media sites (SMS) such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to screen job candidates. In 2016, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) reported that 84 percent of organizations use SMS to screen new employees, an increase of 41 percent from 2015.

Over one-third (36%) of organizations reported that job candidates were disqualified for employment due to information found (e.g., inappropriate text or comments, unsuitable photos or videos, poor communication skills displayed online) on candidates SMS. While two out of five organizations (39%) allow candidates to explain diverging information. The fact of the matter is that your social media profile is a direct reflection of your personal and professional identity and may hold the key to you landing that perfect job or not landing a job at all.

A 2013/104 study found that 70% of employers now have a social media policy in place that require hiring personnel to research applicants online social media use as part of the employment screening process. Some of the reasons why organizations use candidates’ SMS to screen them include: 1) a candidates’ SMS are an easy method to verify their resume and cover letter information, 2) a SMS provides easy access to obtaining more information about a candidate, 3) some candidates include their SMS on their resume, 4) SMS are an easy way to gain more information about the candidates work related potential and performance, and 5) SMS are a cost efficient way of gaining more information about a candidate.

Privately owned for-profit organizations are 51 percent more likely to use candidates’ SMS to screen them as opposed to 27 percent of publicly owned for-profit organizations. Facebook and LinkedIn are among the top social media sites that an organization is most likely to use to screen a candidate. Other SMS that are frequently used to screen candidates are Twitter, professional or association social networking sites, Google+, YouTube, and Pinterest. Organizations are reported to always screen executive-level positions. Of the organizations that use SMS as screening methods, one-fourth is known to screen candidates SMS before the interview while three of 10 will screen a candidates’ SMS after the interview. Furthermore, before a hiring decision is made, two out of five organizations will give a candidate an opportunity to explain any information of concern found within their SMS.

For the most part, we have only one shot at making a great first impression. As the saying goes, “First impressions are lasting impressions.” Hence, take some time to review your SMS to ensure your profile pictures and information reflect a professional and consistent image of your talent both personal and professional. Some proactive steps you can take to ensure your SMS represent your professional aspirations are to:

1) Make sure your profile photos and descriptions are consistent and professional across all of your SMS – Digital Photography can quickly teach you to capture the perfect professional headshot,

2) Regularly monitor comments written by yourself and others, especially commentary you may be tagged in – SMS managers like Hootsuite can be used to monitor multiple SMS and monitor SMS discourse,

3) Google, Bing, and Yahoo your name – if your hits are not favorable you can use several methods to clean up your digital dirt, and

4), Create your own professional website/page – professional career coaches strongly advise clients to create their own website/page and there are some great free web building tools available.

Remember, it takes just one inappropriate comment, line of text or image to disqualify you from the job of your choice.

Quintana “Quincy” Clark is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication at Purdue University. Quincy’s research focuses on the assessment of problem solving with model-based reasoning and STEM intervention/mentoring programs. You can follow her on Twitter @Quincy01.

Dr. Levon T. Esters is an associate professor at Purdue University. Levon’s research focuses on the STEM career development of students of color, mentoring of women and graduate students of color in STEM, and the role of historically Black land grant institutions in fostering the STEM success of women and students of color. You can follow him on Twitter @Levon_Esters.

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