Once upon a time, you were 100% in control of what recruiting managers knew about you during a job application process. You submitted application forms and CVs, academic transcripts and perhaps details of publications. The recruiting manager only saw what you wanted them to see.
Now it’s a different story. Your CV and application, as well as the details you reveal about yourself at interview, are only part of the picture. Any recruiting manager worth their salt will also look you up online and uncover anything else in the digital realm about you. Indeed, 70% of employers will screen applicants according to their digital footprint. It can feel like you’ve lost control.
However, with a digital footprint audit, you gain complete insight into what information is in the digital domain about you. You can assess what prospective employers will see and discover. You can take steps to mitigate any negative effects. A personal digital audit is how you do this.
What an employer is looking for
Before you begin your digital audit, first consider what a future employer is looking for.
Employers don’t waste time searching every single candidate online. They do it when they are already thinking you could be a match. They are trying to verify that what you say in your CV matches your real life persona, as well as build a more comprehensive picture of a candidate they are beginning to like.
However, that doesn’t mean that they will ignore negative online behaviour. What constitutes this will partially depend on the nature of the role and organisation. They won’t expect you to only have a professional life visible online. But they will probably expect you, at the very least, to know how to lock down social media profiles which are purely social so that they can’t access them.
Therefore, as you go through the steps of auditing your digital footprint, always remember to look at everything from the perspective of a future employer.
How to carry out a digital audit during a job hunt
The simplest way to start a personal digital audit is with search engines. We recommend repeating this process with a number of different search engines, as well as Google. Start with a straightforward search of your name and any shortened names or nicknames.
It’s worth undertaking this exercise away from your usual work and home IP addresses. The algorithms of search engines deliver results using personalised search bias. This means that all of your search history affects results to deliver what the search engine hopes will more likely fit your needs. Therefore, it isn’t always reflective of what someone else conducting the same search will see.
Beyond nicknames, also search for your name alongside companies listed in your career history section of your CV. This will bring up work-based results. Repeat this with any hobbies you list or educational institutions you’ve attended. It’s also worth doing it with your location.
Beyond a general search engine exploration, you also need to drill down into your social media presence.
Go to all of the social platforms that you use and go back through your profile and activity. Even if you lock these down, it’s good practice to be fully aware of, and in control, of everything you post. Remember to look through the lens of a prospective employer, not your best buddy.
How to act on what you find
Having conducted the research, you now need to know what to do about it.
If you find content you aren’t sure displays you in the best professional light, then you need to take steps to remove it or mitigate its impact. Where you are in control of it, the simplest thing to do is remove anything you don’t want future employers seeing. You can ask people to remove links to you, or tags. You can also increase the privacy settings on social media.
However, sometimes, you can’t remove everything. In these cases the easiest thing to do is add to your digital footprint. Post professionally minded comments on industry news, publish professional articles on LinkedIn, contribute to thought-leadership discussions and more. The aim here is to fill leading search results with a more positive view.
Always be mindful about your online presence. Be aware of what’s out there about you and take steps to make a positive impression, digitally.
About the Author
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.