New College Graduates Beware: a Poor Online Reputation Can Kill Job Prospects

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School of Rep's Top 10 Tips to Improve College Student Online Reputations.

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Tips for College Grad Reputation Management

INFOGRAPHIC: 10 Tips for College Grad Reputation Management

With employers using social media to screen job's more important than ever that new grads clean up their online identities.

New college graduates may face a rude awakening as they enter a competitive job market, where more than 90% of employers are relying on social media to evaluate job candidates, according to reputation expert John Millen.

“Every day the news carries another story of college students ruining their online reputations with inappropriate comments, photos and videos,” said Millen, chief strategist of Reputation Group. “With most employers using social media to screen candidates, it’s more important than ever that new graduates clean up and protect their online identities.”

Research has found that more than 90% of employers use social media to screen job candidates. This is good news and bad news for graduates since the majority of employers say that they have both hired and rejected job candidates based on what they learned from applicants’ social media profiles.

Millen, who speaks at college campuses on behalf of School of Rep, offered 10 tips for college graduates to clean up and manage their online identities in advance of their job searches.

1.    First impressions are made online. For college students, who haven't spent much time building a personal or business profile, their Facebook and Twitter accounts will likely make their first impression with employers. If students’ social media is heavily focused on fun and parties, or negative rants, that’s how potential employers will think of them.

2.    Tighten privacy settings. Graduates should tighten privacy controls on Facebook and other social media accounts, but assume that what they’ve posted will be seen by the world. If it’s not something students would want their grandmothers, or future employers, to see, it shouldn’t be posted.

3.    Remember, social media is forever. The comments and photos on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere may be recorded for the rest of a student’s life. Just because they’re deleted, doesn't mean they're gone. Tweets, for instance, are saved in the Library of Congress.

4.    Take an online inventory. Graduates should search for their names online. The top 10 results on Google today are their digital resume. Recruiters will “Google” applicants and only about six percent of searchers will go to the second page of results. This means that if students have negative findings on the first page, or don't appear at all, they are not making a positive impression with potential employers.

5.    Clean up the past. Once students have taken an inventory, they should go about cleaning it up as well as they can. On their own accounts, they should remove questionable photos and comments. Unfortunately, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to remove negative results on many other sites. The only other option is to bury the negative results by creating positive profiles and content, which will help to push down the negative results.

6.    Purge "friends." Many college students accept anyone who "friends" them on Facebook, whether they know the person or not. Unfortunately, those "friends" could be hurting the student’s reputation -- by sharing their content, or making them seem guilty by association with strange people.

7.    Claim the name. Graduates should find and buy the .com, .net or .org domains of their common names. They should also claim their names at all the major social media sites. Students should create a basic profile and at least a small amount of content. By linking these accounts to one another, students will strengthen their overall search results.

8.    Create a strong LinkedIn profile. With more than 200 million users, LinkedIn is used extensively by recruiters to fill jobs. If students have no profile, or a sloppy one, they will be missing great opportunities every day. An additional benefit is that a complete LinkedIn profile will often be the top result on Google.

9.    Students should show themselves as a well-rounded people. Students should start a blog and begin to write about their views, interests and passions. Their writing doesn't have to be extensive, or daily, but it should be consistent. On all of their social accounts they should show themselves as more than fun people. They should show their volunteer, sports or other interesting activities--anything that gives employers a better understanding of the students’ lives and personalities.

10.    Practice the Platinum Rule. Yes, this is like the Golden Rule. It’s the Platinum Rule, because it's even more important online. If students treat people online the way they want to be treated, they’ll spare themselves a lot of negativity that might keep them from getting their dream jobs.

Millen said graduating colleges students may be overwhelmed by the task of cleaning up their social media, but will benefit from even taking a few simple steps an hour per week.

“With most employers reviewing the social media profiles of job candidates, it’s well worth the effort for new college graduates to cleanup and manage their online reputations,” Millen said. “They have to remember, their reputations, and their job prospects, are on the line.”

Millen said more tips and resources for students and universities are available at

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