Your online reputation matters a lot in the job market. Pay attention to your online posts, for they tell the world who you are.

With more and more colleges and universities and even the corporate world relying on digital data to conduct background checks on applicants, the importance of your digital footprint cannot be overlooked. Emphasising the need to conduct such background checks, Colonel Sanjay Chawla says, “The online reputation of an applicant can offer valuable insights about a person’s character, beliefs, value system…much more than what meets the eye. It’s always better to know as much as possible about the candidate beforehand than entrusting them with jobs and realising your mistake later.”

Ohio University recently launched a campaign encouraging its students to “Be Smart, Be Civil, Be safe, Be employed.” The idea was to remind students that an inappropriate online image could hamper their chances of getting their ‘dream job’. “We talk to students about creating a professional online presence, such as keeping status updates clean and their tweets professional. An employer will think twice about hiring a student whose first link on ‘Google search’ is an article discussing their pending court case due to rioting or a quote about partying till 5 a.m., says Erin Nunn, Assistant Director, Office of career services, Ohio University.

“In today’s world of cut-throat competition, the emphasis is more on looking for reasons to reject an application rather than accept it… and a tarnished online reputation is a good reason to reject the applicant at the preliminary level itself,” reiterates Sanjana Sachdev, an evaluator, who screens applications for university admissions abroad. In his book Managing Your Digital Footprint, Kevin Trowbridge advocates, “Your resume is just the preface. Your online image tells the whole story.”

Managing it effectively

In order to effectively manage your digital footprint it is important not to confuse things with being hidden in digital space. The idea is to portray who you are and what you do, stand by your beliefs and paint your own picture as someone you are proud to be. While interacting with people face-to-face we are very careful in the way we conduct ourselves; trying our best to be seen in positive light. It is the same attitude that you must carry even in cyberspace. Being hidden behind a computer screen does not mean that people in the virtual world do not create an image of you. On the contrary, being online means that you are being seen by a much wider audience! So instead of posting a photograph that later makes you cringe, it would be wiser to post your accomplishments and achievements. You should even consider replacing an immature or inappropriate e-mail address with something more serious or professional. This slight shift in managing your online reputation could go a long way in ensuring that you become a part of the college/university/company that you aspire to be in. “Managing our reputation has always been a challenge for all of us and the same holds true even in digital space”, says Avneet Kaur, NASCOM. “Your online image gets interlinked to your offline image when you go out and apply in foreign universities or when you step into the corporate world. Companies in India are also now relying on digital data before recruiting professionals. In fact, hiring decisions finally boil down to face-to-face interactions, but it is important to maintain a clean online image to pass the initial tests that lead to a face-to-face interview,” she adds.

Creating an impression

Online posts mentioning negative statements about previous employers, references to drugs or alcohol and use of abusive language on social networking sites are potentially hazardous to your online reputation. It is thus advisable to check your digital footprints and delete such posts to ‘spring clean’ your digital image. And to keep it clean, it is important to develop a ‘pause before you post’ approach whenever you are online. On the same note, it would be wise to use it to your advantage and create a positive digital impression…because it’s equally likely that your future employer will come across it! Be wise, be employable!