The first time I witnessed the clash between a Talent’s professional appearance and their overall digital presence it was a spectacular mess.
It was 2016 and I was recruiting for a Head of Digital role in an agency. It was a big role with a big agency and a big salary.
The Talent I put forward had undergone three rounds of interviewing with the employer who was delighted. I had completed the talent’s (glowing) references and we were at the job offer stage.
Then on a whim, the employer looked up her social profiles. Her LinkedIn profile picture was a cartoon image of Hello Kitty holding a knife that was dripping in blood.
The potential employer freaked out and withdrew their job offer. They felt that the talent had not shown their “true” personality throughout the interview process and was concerned that they “may” have a hidden dark/ violent streak. The employer was worried that if his staff were to stay back working late one night with this individual, he might “receive the call” that “something” had happened to one of his staff members.
Fast forward to 2020 where most of the companies that I recruit for include a social media presence review in their formal hiring process. They look for the obvious red flags such as violence, hate speech, aggressive behaviour, drug use and other explicit content, but they are also looking to see if a potential employee is likely to fit within the workplace culture and to see if a Talent’s level of digital literacy aligns with the claims they make on their resume. This process is something I continually remind my clients of, and in this article, I thought I’d share the advice that I give them regarding the management of their digital presence.
How’s your digital literacy?
Whether you want one or not, everyone has a digital footprint and a personal brand which can be viewed by anyone at any time. Because I recruit within the digital marketing and public relations industries, the Talent that I put forward for roles is expected to have a certain level of digital and social media literacy. This means that employers expect professionals in this industry to maintain a polished and consistent digital presence that is properly tailored to each platform. The first thing I tell my talent to do is to review their digital presence as if they are an employer assessing the suitability of a potential employee. Questions to ask include:
- Is your LinkedIn bio properly completed (including a professional headshot) and up to date?
- Does your Instagram feed contain anything you consider unprofessional? (another way of asking this is- is there anything there you wouldn’t want on the projector at a Monday morning WIP?)
- What kinds of photos are you tagged in?
- What comes up when you Google your name?
- Are older elements of your personal brand (i.e. MySpace, a YouTube channel you made when you were 16, an old blog you wrote that’s riddled with spelling errors) still visible or accessible?
Decide Whether You Want to Hide It or Make It Wholesome
There are two possible directions to go in when managing your digital presence. Number one is to simply make your accounts private. This is the easiest option and the one I generally advise my talent to take if they want to post evidence of big nights out or have a penchant for thirst posting on Instagram.
The second option is to create a private finsta (a combination of the words fake and Instagram) to share personal content with close friends, whilst maintaining a more polished public profile. This option is more time consuming, but I would recommend it for anyone who is a professional content creator or social media specialist. For professionals in this area, maintaining a wholesome, on-brand public profile is a great way to demonstrate your understanding of the platform and your skillset to a potential employer.
Tailor Your Content To Your Potential Employer
The final piece of advice I would give to content creators or social media specialists who are looking to stand out as a candidate for a particularly competitive role would be to tailor their digital presence to align with a company’s culture. For example, if you were applying for a senior role in a company that prizes sustainability, then you might consider sharing articles alongside your thoughts on eco-friendly approaches to business on LinkedIn or possibly even tweaking your bio to reflect your interests in this area.