Prepping for Your Job Interview? Cleanup Online!

Posted by Adam Hoffarber on 3/27/23 10:24 AM
Adam Hoffarber
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How Cyber Vetting Could Affect Your Ability To Land A Job

You may be familiar with the term "cyber vetting." But did you know how common the practice is today, among hiring managers? Even one ill-advised social media post has the power to knock you out of consideration for the job you want – no matter how ready you are for the interview, itself.

Take control of your online presence with this simple brand management approach.

Job interviewing has always been a high-stakes affair, requiring meticulous preparation on multiple levels, from the traditional (what to say, what to ask, and what to wear) to post-covid video requirements (camera quality, lighting, office staging, and app mastery).  But while you’re juggling all of that, keep this in mind: if you’re planning to make a powerful first impression during your interview, you’re already too late. A hiring manager’s earliest – and most powerful - impressions of you (and other candidates) have probably already been formed.  According to a recent Harris poll, 71% of employers use social media searches as a candidate screening tool.

If it sounds invasive, consider how you vet potential employers: you search online for all the stuff they don’t tell you in the job posting. You especially want to know if “real-life” posts contradict any claims made by the employer.

Similarly, employers want to check for discrepancies between your resume and what you say online.  For example, when a potential new hire’s resume looks stellar, but their social media include posts that attack or degrade others, their leadership credentials are instantly called into question.

Today's successful candidates understand this and are proactively managing their online brands. The good news is, it doesn’t take a marketing degree to do it well. It simply requires these three steps:

  1. Define your personal brand “promise”
  2. Assess the gap between your current online presence and your brand promise
  3. Close the gap


Define your Personal Brand

A robust, in-depth branding process for an organization is a complex, multi-tentacled affair. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Instead, I’m suggesting that you summarize who you are as an employee, as a leader, and as a peer to other professionals. Your resume is in charge of defining and conveying your skills, experience, educational qualifications, and core competencies. Now, make sure that your online presence reinforces the best parts of your professional “brand”:

  • Trustworthy
  • Goal-oriented and success-oriented
  • Level-headed and fair (e.g. calm in the face of heated situations)
  • Encouraging and motivating others (e.g. someone who praises and congratulates others for efforts, gestures, or results)

Assess and Address the Gaps (between the brand you’re promoting and the messaging currently online).

Now conduct a serious, no-stone-left-unturned inventory of what’s out there, online. You have three goals with this step, in this order: 

Goal 1: Know what’s out there. Conduct the most extensive online search possible. Find and remove posts that do not reflect positively or accurately on you - or who you are at work. Ask a few friends to do the same and alert you to what they find.

Goal 2: Get rid of any content that undermines you. While you can never guarantee that old posts won’t come back to haunt you, do your best to delete regrettable comments, graphics, or photos you’ve posted in the past. But also prepare talking points for yourself if, indeed, an employer has come across anything negative and asks you about it. These talking points should be brief, non-defensive, and earnest about who you are now.

Reminder: you’re not on a search-and-destroy mission, aiming for anything non-work related. The purpose here is to keep (and bolster) the content that rings true to who you are and to remove anything that contradicts those positive “personal brand” messages.

Rebuild your Brand.

Now it’s time to better align your content with your brand. After you’ve deleted the stuff you want to go, what’s left? What is the overall picture these various posts now portray of you? Again, enlist the help of friends to answer that question as fully and objectively as possible. From there, begin creating and posting content that fills in those gaps. For example, what if you’re a gifted mentor and coach who inspires and celebrates team successes? Fill in that gap using any of the following methods:

  • Create a short post recognizing a team you know and/or respect that has succeeded at something.
  • If you’re a confident writer, publish a blog about what you believe it takes to be an effective team leader
  • Share links to articles, blog posts, studies, or other content related to team leadership (being sure it’s from respected, credible sources).

Building a strong, positive online personal brand is like building Rome. It won’t happen in a day (or even a few weeks). But get started. Be intentional. And stay on top of it. Believe me, the payoff can be immense.

At SkyWater Search Partners, we work with many of the most successful and employee-centric organizations in the Upper Midwest. Explore the exciting opportunities for which we’re actively seeking candidates and reach out to learn more!



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Topics: For Job Seekers, Interviewing For Job Seekers