Digital Footprint and Employment

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I’m developing a new course for seeking employment supported by digital tools and social media. This also gives some consideration to Digital Footprint, sometimes referred to as Net Rep (Reputation).  There are lots of horror stories about potential employers Googling a candidate to find all sorts of really embarrassing and compromising pictures and texts in Facebook etc. The common wisdom is “clean up your social media accounts”.  I’m going a different route entirely and I’m introducing participants to a whole clean slate where all their social media accounts are dedicated to one aim: finding a job. This begins with the email account. Clearly “” is not an appropriate address to give potential employers but I don’t actually take anyone seriously that has any kind of hotmail address. My perception may be wrong but other people perceive this too and since getting a job is about making an impression, perceptions are important. Everyone on this new course will get a email account (Be All You Can Digital)

Actually, the more I’ve considered this, I’ve begun to realise that if our main purpose online is to land a job, it’s unlikely that our existing social media accounts are of any assistance to this cause. The tendency is for us to grow our “friends” and connections. The social media platforms beseech us to do this. When you set up new account and you fail to add half the universe they pump out messages  like; “are you sure, you might be lonely”.  My advice people setting out on social media platforms will be: in the first instance don’t add any friends, definitely do not let the application trawl through your email address book or other social media platforms, don’t add a profile image and skip every step that you can.  Get as close to a plain vanilla account as you can and THEN start to build your profile and connections.

My own LinkedIn account, for example would be useless for finding a job. I’m connected to colleagues, my bosses and probably half the HR department.  I recently added a new Social Enterprise I’ve set up to my profile and my entire contact list was sent a message “congratulate Steve on his new job” – Huh !  Furthermore my contacts are asked to endorse me for skills I either don’t have or have a very fleeting relationship with. Obviously they this so out of kindness or courtesy but I didn’t ask them do endorse me, Linkedin did!  When I used Linked in to generate a CV from my profile it looked nothing like a CV. First of all it was way too flippant – e.g. “I’m a can do guy and if I say I’m going to do something you can take it to the bank.” – That’s it! That’s my claim to employability.  Would you give that guy a job? Furthermore, my Linkedin generated CV shows way too many skills, some of which I don’t have. Obviously I can edit this but if I really were seeking a job via Linkedin it would be better if the profile were set out properly in the first place.

I think I’d rename all the major social media platforms. Linked in would be spammedin dot com (see above), Twitter would be called info overload dot com and Facebook would be renamed moving goalposts dot com.

What I am going to advocate is that participants develop a lean social media presence with the right kind and quantity of info. They will develop smallish, carefully chosen networks of contacts. All will be with the sole aim of assisting them finding a job. We don’t want to be totally devoid of personality and humour but using these platforms for job hunting is entirely different, in my opinion, to the “social” way we have become accustomed to using social media platforms. Participants still may need to clean up their existing social accounts but we’ll make sure potential employers find the “right” accounts by giving each participant a business card with the URL’s of where all their stuff is.

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  • Nice post Steve

    I’d fully support any and all approaches to clean up social media accounts and generally get people sharpening their digital presence. Avoiding self-harm would be a good start and then moving onto sorting out anywhere you’ve already been digitally-dissed.
    I think the value of the information is probably never going to be job generating on its own and I’d always endorse the idea that digital presence adds depth to an individual rather than a definitive cold introduction.

    I’ve just finished working with a group, they spent nearly £20000 with us, we’ve never met, only spoken occasionally on the telephone and yet we’ve all seen each others linkedin profiles because now we’re all connected. The feedback from them is excellent, the jobs done and we’ve made no plans to meet in the future. They gave us the work because someone they knew said we could do the job. The interesting thing for me is that that person has never met us either and never met the other client.

    So things in the business world have changed, physical presence is still very important, but in its absence digital-presence is all we have – so let’s be careful out there! (theme tune from hill street blues plays)

    Overall, I think you’re right about them not being as useful as they might be for getting a job, but I do think a well managed account gives you an edge over someone without a digital presence. (IMHO)
    All the best

  • I like this. I much prefer evidence of what people have done (which I can ask deep questions about) rather than some certificate.

    There’z one tweak I’d suggest to what you’ve written. I’d like to shift the emphasis away from the old idea of getting “a job” (i.e. an “off the peg” employment opportunity) and direct it into something more fluid. I’d rather think in terms of “work opportunities” where work is effort that adds value of some kind, and is rewarded. Such work may be in a “traditional job” arrangement as an employee, but it may equally well be as part of an ad hoc team taking advantage of a short term opportunity to add value.

    I see work within rapidly forming, high-trust, ad hoc teams as a likely way forward. Rather than education/training and then employment for most people, I anticipate something more agile as our 21st century lifestyle. I think we will be more likely to dance between learning and earning throughout our lives, and very probably our working and non-working times will have a different balance to the fixed patterns people have expected since the industrial revolution.

    So “yes please” to your idea of work related digital footprints – but for “livelihoods” rather than “jobs”.

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