Top 10 Career-Damaging Online Mistakes

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Employers are looking at more than your resume. Make your online presence work for you and your career by avoiding these potential pitfalls

When you applied for your last job, chances are you didn’t include a copy of your diary, your photo album or a selection of your social media  comments. However, if you have an online presence employers can find this content online — and new research reveals that more of them are looking.

A survey of over 3100 employers conducted on behalf of found that 22 per cent of employers currently use social networking sites to research job candidates — that’s double the number from 2006. In addition, another 9 per cent say they plan to start. In total, roughly one third of employers will be checking up on candidates online.

Is this good news or bad news if you’re looking for a job? That depends on what’s in your profile. One third (34 per cent) of employers who used social networking sites discovered content that led them to eliminate a candidate from consideration — but 24 per cent found information that positively influenced their decision to hire a candidate.

And social networking isn’t the only source. Your website, blog and other online tools can also provide employers with valuable information. Even if you’re not currently job hunting, learn how to avoid these common mistakes:

Mistake 1: Being too modest

 Like it or not, job hunting is a marketing exercise so you should be using your social networking pages, websites and blogs as promotional tools. Otherwise, you’re missing out on the opportunity to offer content that supports and expands on your resume.

Solution: You don’t have to brag but you should include your accomplishments and successes, both personal and professional, as part of your profile. Remember, a bare profile won’t help employers get to know you.

In addition, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to words and pictures. The internet also allows you to incorporate audio and video to show off your work. Consider setting up a website to promote your work, create an online portfolio or set up an interactive curriculum vitae . If you’re not tech savvy, try a service like Visual CV.

Mistake 2: Stale content

Simply having a membership to a social networking site or setting up a website is not enough. People expect them to be recent, and gaps in the content (like gaps on your resume) can pose questions.

Solution: Make sure to regularly update your digital resources to include new projects, responsibilities, qualifications and accomplishments. It’s easier to document these things on an ongoing basis rather than trying to recall what you did over the past few months or years. Keeping a record can also be a boon when it comes to performance reviews as well. (For more information, see Blueprint for Financial Prosperity’s post on Accomplishment Journals).

Mistake 3: Overlooking privacy settings

Not everything that gets posted online is flattering — like last year’s beach vacation photos or less-than-tactful comments on your pages. You wouldn’t share this stuff around the office, so why leave it open for employers to find online?

Solution: Find out what privacy protection is offered and use it to control who can access what content. If there’s questionable information on your page, increase your privacy settings so that only designated people can access specific parts of your profile. If you have a blog or website that allows comments, consider enabling the moderation features to weed out off-topic or inappropriate remarks and spam.

Also, think twice before you double-dip: Setting up a second user account (for professional purposes) may violate the website’s rules (as is the case with Facebook). Read the user agreement first.

Mistake 4: Gossiping about work

Are you trustworthy? Employers won’t think so if they see your negative comments about your current (or past) employers and coworkers. Blogging about your job is questionable, and revealing any confidential or questionable information about the business or clients is also a serious breach of trust.

Solution: Confidential information should always stay private. If you need to vent frustration, keep it to more private venues like a coffee date at home where you can’t be overheard and there isn’t a permanent record of what you say.

Mistake 5: Skipping the proofreading

The immediacy of the internet means people don’t often take time to edit their work. However, 29 per cent of employers in the survey were put off by poor communication skills while another 43 per cent were impressed by strong communication skills.

Solution: Read twice, publish once. Check your spelling and grammar and have someone else look over your writing if needed. Be sure to watch your tone, and avoid posting when you’re angry or upset. That’s when you’re more likely to make mistakes or say something you can’t take back.

Mistake 6: Overlooking unintended connections

Your professional organization profile is connected to your website, your website is connected to your blog, your blog is connected to your photo album, etc. Interactivity is great, but you could be unknowingly directing people to a personal blog or online diary, or to your online photo albums.

Solution: Online information is interconnected, so follow the trail and see where it leads. Grab a pencil and paper and draw a tree diagram to help you sort out where the links end up. Also, try conducting a few searches using your name and other information to see what results turn up.

Mistake 7: Exaggerating claims

While a surprising number of people still lie on their resumes and in interviews, now it’s easier to get caught. You’re accountable for what you post online as well as what’s in the resume you submit.

Solution: It’s simple: Be honest. Resist the temptation to “fudge” details or exaggerate your qualifications and experience. Instead, use your profile or website to demonstrate transferable skills from other areas of your life or to fill in the gaps if you took time off to travel, raise children or care for a loved one.

Mistake 8: Assuming you’re safe

Social networking sites aren’t completely secure, and scammers are looking exploit any popular media or service. The Better Business Bureau recently released a warning against schemes like phishing attacks and viruses on wall posts. Serious damage to your computer will stall your job hunt, and you might accidentally send malware to your business contacts.

Solution:The BBB recommends these steps to protect yourself:

– Only accept friend requests from people you know and trust, and keep your personal information out of your profile.

– Be wary of messages that include hyperlinks to websites, especially if they say something like “hey do u realize your face book pictures is all over this site” or “you look funny in this video”. Clicking on those links may download viruses or keyloggers to your computer.

– Keep your operating system up to date, and use a firewall and anti-virus program.

(Read the full alert here).

Mistake 9: You’re invisible where it matters

What the survey doesn’t reveal is what sites employers are using to find out about candidates. While Facebook is a popular choice, you may be overlooking business or industry-specific opportunities that provide more meaningful ways to present yourself.

Solution: Experts advise you should be using websites like LinkedIn or professional online communities as part of your strategy. Unlike broad social networking sites, these focus on career development and include features like an online employment history, introductions to other members and business-based groups. Coworkers and supervisors can post recommendations, and you can let people know you’re looking for work.

Mistake 10: Poor housekeeping

According to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at, employers are looking for a “well rounded view” of job candidates — including skills, accomplishments and an idea of how well the candidates might fit into the company. What they don’t want to see is evidence of illegal activities, drug and alcohol use, inappropriate (or suggestive) photographs and information, an unprofessional screen name and derogatory remarks about race, gender or religion.

It’s still a grey area in human resources policy, but what goes on your page can also affect your current job status, especially if you’re in the public eye. There have been cases of people facing discipline or even being fired because of what’s on their Facebook or MySpace page.

Solution: Haefner recommends cleaning up this “digital dirt” from their pages by removing content that might give employers the wrong impression. The same principle applies to websites, blogs and other online profiles you might have. If it’s publicly-available information, it should be appropriate for employers’ eyes.

Overall, the internet can be a powerful tool for getting noticed, but you want to make sure you’re getting attention for the right reasons. Managing your appearance and reputation online may take some effort and care, but don’t underestimate how important it could be for your career.

Sources: Better Business Bureau,, HR Blunders.