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Resumes and cover letters

How to manage your online presence for your career

Tips for making sure your online footprint helps—not hurts—your professional goals.

You’ve polished your resume, your cover letter is ready, and your Handshake profile is in top shape. Now, let’s check how you show up online.

Do employers go out searching for candidates’ social media profiles? Megan Malcolm, a recruiter at Handshake, doesn’t: “We don't evaluate people based on their social media interactions. It creates bias and has nothing to do with their work.”

Policies vary between employers, though, so it’s still smart to take a few basic steps to build an online presence that enhances, not takes away from, your application.

Check your current footprint

Your first step is to do an online search of your first and last name and see what comes up. If you want to go the extra mile, you can also set up an alert on your name so you’re updated on any new content.

Go through at least the first few pages of the search results. Be sure to try a few different search combinations, including your name and school name, your name and city, and any usernames.

If you find anything you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see, contact the owner of the website and ask them to take it down. If there’s an embarrassing photo from a friend’s social media account, remove any tags that identify you, or ask them if they can remove the photo.

A quick Google search is an employer's way of ruling out any red flags. Megan notes that an employer will investigate if they “were made aware of someone harassing people online, inciting violence, hate speech, etc.”

Create a website or portfolio

Consider creating a dedicated space to showcase your story, your skills, and any projects you’ve done. A personal website will give recruiters an easy way to discover who you are beyond your resume. An online portfolio is ideal to showcase your work in any field where you can show, not just tell: writing, graphic design, engineering, event planning, and more. Some companies, like Squarespace, offer discounts to college students.

Use social media to learn about employers

Tatum Specht, a recruiting coordinator at Handshake, says, “Social media is a great place to learn more about companies and brands. Check out an organization's socials to see what they're passionate about, what they've been up to recently, and what's next on their agenda. Whether you're actively interviewing or considering applying, socials are a great resource. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge, they can also offer talking points and conversation starters during the interview process. Companies love when candidates do their research!”

Quick tips

  • Review your social media privacy settings, and make sure you know who can see your information. Consider making some of your accounts private.
  • Be careful with all of your profile pictures. Even if your accounts are private, these may not be. Replace any that you think are inappropriate for a professional contact or hiring manager to see.
  • Be selective about who you connect with on social media. Go through your lists of friends and connections regularly.
  • Avoid posting anything negative about someone else, including classmates, former coworkers, professors, etc. These kinds of negative posts not only could hurt someone else’s reputation, but they’ll reflect poorly on you as well.
  • Think before you post: keep in mind that if you want to remove negative posts, it may take a while for them to disappear from search results. Depending on the search engines you use, there may be easy-to-find steps to take to remove personal information from search listings.

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