Tweets, photos and Facebook statuses are all part of your digital footprint, an impression that is becoming increasingly important to employers and job-seekers.
A digital footprint, or one’s trail of activity and interactions in a digital setting, is one of many signs of rapidly changing communication, said Christina Rideout, Career Connections director.
“The way that communication is available in split seconds, we’re having a lot more things we need to consider and think about that we didn’t used to have to,” Rideout said.
For students actively seeking jobs and internships, social media presence is especially important, Rideout said.
“Particularly with Facebook, students really think about it as, ‘This is my opportunity to be social,'” Rideout said. “Even though it’s supposed to be private, it’s very public.”
In some settings, digital presence, especially social media activity, is a factor in reviewing candidates for employment.
“If (an employer) can’t decide between two really good candidates, they might look at Facebook profiles to help them decide,” Rideout said.
Pat DiNunzio is the Columbus managing director for Mergis Group, a nationwide recruiting firm that seeks candidates for positions in human resources and accounting.
Though social media can feel very personal to its users, DiNunzio said employers conduct online searches when evaluating prospective employees.
Some companies even have entire departments devoted to this, she added.
Sarah Gale, a fourth-year in operations management, said she has considered her digital presence throughout her job search but hasn’t changed her online activity.
“I haven’t changed what I do on Facebook because I never have been one of those to post everything,” Gale said. “My Facebook profile is as private as possible. My friends can see it and that’s about it.”
Steven Redd, a fourth-year in public affairs, said he has learned from professional experiences that employers might search for a candidate online out of curiosity.
“You’re going to at least Google a person that’s going to be joining your staff just because,” he said. “If nothing else, you’re curious to see what they look like or you’re curious about who they are.”
When employers conduct online searches, Redd said he doesn’t think they’re looking for anything compromising.
“I don’t think they’re necessarily actually looking for something,” Redd said. “I think it would have to be pretty offensive.”
Redd added that larger firms and organizations might use a structured interview process because they think it identifies candidates who are a best fit for the position.
“Unless they come across something extremely unflattering, they’re going to go with what their experiences are and how they select people,” he said.
KeyBank is one of several companies that recruits extensively at Ohio State, particularly within the Fisher College of Business.
TaRita Johnson leads the campus recruiting efforts at KeyBank, a company she said does not look at online presence or social media use when reviewing candidates. She said this is mostly because of the high volume of candidates they review.
Still, other companies might use Internet searches when reviewing candidates, so students should be mindful, Johnson said.
“Just because my team is not doing that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other employers or people that are looking out there and pulling that information,” Johnson said.
LinkedIn is a form of social media that could be used to a student’s advantage when looking for internships or employment, and networking is key in fostering relationships that could lead to employment, Rideout said.
“Using social media sites like LinkedIn could be really beneficial to students in terms of learning more about networks,” Rideout said.
Redd interned in Washington, D.C., last summer and had friends who used LinkedIn to organize their professional network.
“It’s so difficult to keep track of people using business cards,” Redd said. “Having this electronic library of people that you’ve come in contact with … it’s a really nice way to keep in touch.”
Even if students aren’t actively looking for an internship or job, it is still important to monitor your digital footprint.
Redd said it’s hard to give suggestions about social media because everyone uses it in their own way, but in general, people should be mindful of their audience.
“You have to understand what type of people are seeing what type of information,” Redd said.
When it comes to Facebook, statuses should be reserved for big events and things that you want a lot of people to know about, Redd said.
“A good thing to share on Facebook are accomplishments or exciting things happening in your life,” Redd said. “You don’t want all of your Facebook statuses to be depressing song lyrics.”
Johnson encourages students, most importantly, to be professional.
“Pictures with inappropriate paraphernalia, alcohol, smoking, any of those things, don’t need to be out there. I would encourage students to be very careful,” Johnson said. “Once you put it out there in cyber world, it’s out there.”