Taking control of first impressions

Are your photos publicly available?

First impressions really are important; if you think they occur at the point you meet your prospective employer face to face, think again.

Before you even get to the point of trying to win a prospective employer’s confidence in interview, you may well have been thoroughly cyber screened. Once your application is sent, a recruiter or employer will build an idea of your suitability – technical and personal – from whatever information is available, not just the application letter and CV you send. Therefore it makes sense to take a good look at how you present yourself to the world in general. In addition to application letters, CV and portfolio, your social network footprint, public web profiles, personal blogs or websites, phone manner, voicemail messages and even your email address might need some serious attention.

Before approaching the job market you would do well to research yourself. Employers will search the internet to find out what is available for general viewing on prospective candidates, especially for positions with significant responsibility or client interaction. Colleagues and clients may well do the same. Like it or not, your broadcasted social life history may affect not only your employment chances but your career in general.

Google your name with quotation marks: “firstname lastname”. What are the top 10 search results? Don’t stop there.

You may be very surprised to find out what is available for everyone to see on the internet about you, especially to a trained digger. How many websites and social networks have you set up a profile, uploaded photos, or left comments on? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are just the start. Do you have a personal blog or website? If it’s on the internet, it may as well be on a billboard once you draw attention to yourself with a job application. We know of at least one person who was given a written warning for ringing in sick on the day he was tagged in photos by a friend on someone else’s Facebook wall, showing a particularly festive party he had attended the night before. While the legalities of that scenario are complex to say the least, it does demonstrate that certain websites (and friends) can be bad for your wealth.

If you have a common name, you may like to stake your claim on popular networks and make your profile clearly identifiable from others to avoid doubt. Just don’t sign up to a public-facing social network and then neglect it.

If you’ve successfully passed or avoided the web-test, a call may well be next to gauge your interpersonal communication skills. Your phone manner is being checked every time you take a call from a recruiter or prospective employer with regards to an application you have made, especially for phone-oriented jobs. Remember that funny voicemail greeting you set up ages ago? Employers will get that too. Call your own number and imagine you’re calling a candidate for a job – how do you come across? Having an explicit gangsta rap song, an awkward joke, a mumbled or poorly constructed voicemail message (including a couple of seconds of silence before a beep) on your landline or mobile most likely won’t help build a professional impression. Similarly, consider how professionally your email address reads: usernames are most important but the email domain is worth considering too (you can’t go wrong with Gmail). Alcohol or drug references are dubious, long strings of numbers look bad and using the year of your birthday is not safe online security practice (not a great look if you are applying for a systems administrator role). Surely drunkenduncan@boozemail.com could have at least opened a temporary Gmail account whilst job hunting.

Some content may be out of your control and you will probably need to have a reasonable explanation prepared if you do secure an interview in case it arises in conversation. Nonetheless, regularly review how you are presenting yourself not only to the recruiters and employer you have actively applied to, but those who are mining the internet for passive talent every day – possibly with your ideal job opportunity. Make people excited and encouraged about scheduling an interview with you.