Your social media footprint: Friend or foe?

First impressions matter, so keep your social media accounts and your reputation clean and classy when searching for a job.

socialmediaNYCUTechnology has changed the way people interact, but there is one rule it cannot change: First impressions matter.

When students set out as job seekers, it is important they remember that a prospective employer’s first impression of them is often lasting. In fact, that first impression can set the stage for something else that lasts: their professional reputation, says Suzanne Scott-Trammell, executive director of Career and Professional Development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“The world in which we live involves using social media to background-check and research candidates before the first call is even made to phone-screen candidates,” Scott-Trammell said. “More than 90 percent of recruiters use social media and will look at your social profiles.”

Close to eight recruiters out of 10 have already hired through social media, Scott-Trammell says, citing recent statistics on the use of social media and recruiting. An overwhelming majority of 18- to 34-year-olds found their last job through a social network. What that means, she says, is a little caution and thought can prevent a lot of frustration and embarrassment in the professional world.

“Don’t do something today you may regret later,” she said. Here are her tips to keep a social media footprint clean and classy:

Ditch the drink

“The red plastic cup: It’s so ubiquitous, there’s even a song written about it. But in the world of social media networking, it may be a better idea to put the cup down. The same goes for the beer bottle or wine glass. Take a second and put the drink down, or out of the frame. A little caution will protect your professional reputation and result in a more polished photograph, regardless.”

What are you wearing?

“You’ll be better off leaving pics that flash your flesh offline. Skip the bikini, cleavage, bare chest or short-shorts shots, and forget about ever taking photos in the buff. As many have learned the hard way, those photos can come back to haunt you.”

Lock it down

“Explore your privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter and other social sharing sites. Make sure that, when friends tag you in photos, you have the chance to approve the photo before it posts to your timeline. Limit your profile to the public, keeping it open only to approved and known friends. It wouldn’t hurt to ask friends to allow you to preview any photos of yourself before they hit the Internet.”

Watch your language

“Maybe you’re joking with friends, or maybe someone ticked you off. Perhaps you have strong feelings about a current event. Social media is not the place to air it. Curse words, insults, recklessly worded opinions or an airing of grievances could cause more problems than you think.”

Don’t burn your bridges

“The boss or colleague you complain about online today could be the person you need a reference from tomorrow. Professional relationships within certain geographical areas or career fields can last for years; it isn’t unusual to meet up with the same person throughout the years. And you may have many ‘friends’ in common. So keep your tongue in check, and vent with a trusted friend in real life.”