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Online identity: LinkedIn and more

Your online identity and social media presence will be known to prospective employers. Before hiring, some employers will look at candidates' social media presence; some employers will hire third-party organizations to investigate potential hires. Make sure you are conveying a professional, civil identity. Employers look for indicators that you are hardworking, trustworthy, and responsible.

Recommended read: What job seekers, employees and employers need to know about social media. University of Dayton School of Law.

LinkedIn / Microsoft research:

  • 70% of employers have rejected a job candidates because of information found about the person online.
  • 79% of U.S. HR / recruitment professionals use online info to evaluate candidates most or all of the time.
  • 85% of employers say positive online reputation influences hiring decisions.

Your online identity is defined through any and all online information that exists about you and by you. 

News in the mid-2000s was full of stories about how college students (and others) had sabotaged themselves as employment candidates due to material online that caused prospective employers to (rightly) question the candidate's (or employee's) judgment.  

Be fully aware of what is online by and about you, and clean it up, if needed.

How to clean up your social media presence before a job search

LinkedIn is the current primary tool for online professional networking.

A professional photo is typically included on a LinkedIn profile. See below on the topic of: photos of yourself | on your LinkedIn profile.

If an employer requests your social media password, you may cite / send this information:
Requiring Logins/Passwords Violates NACE Principles
National Association for Colleges & Employers.

NACE's position: the practice by employers of asking job candidates to provide social media password/login information as a condition of employment or candidacy is a violation of ethical standards.

You may be using e-portfolios for academic work. These can be excellent tools for self-development. Be aware that most employers are not interested in seeing academic e-portfolios. Employers simply do not have time to review these, and much of the content may not be relevant to the hiring process. More on this:


  • If you have work samples that are relevant to your career field, relevant to job applications and that could be useful to employers, having these online, easily accessible to employers and linked on your resume, can be beneficial.
  • Don't make the assumption that all employers are interested or have time to look at your portfolio or samples, especially in the early stages of a job search.
  • If you are a top candidate for a job, and if writing samples, video samples, or design work is relevant to your field, an employer might then be interested.
  • Be aware that if an employer wants a work sample, it is your responsibility to provide it in the manner requested by the employer. If the employer doesn't tell you the manner, that leaves you free to ask and suggest an option. Make access easy for the employer!


  • Be cautious about e-portfolios used for academic purposes; much of the content may not interest employers and they simply do not have time to view these.
  • Be cautious about extensive personal statements and introspective projects designed to help you discover yourself. They have value for that purpose, but may seem narcissistic or overly-academic in purpose to employers.

Things to potentially include in an employer-focused portfolio:

  • A copy of your resume. This may seem redundant, but it is appropriate if you keep your online version strictly up-to-date.
  • Copies of reference letters, certifications, or other documents that are relevant to your job search.
  • Academic or professional papers, abstracts, lists of professional papers, presentations, etc.
  • Writing samples, if appropriate to the positions you are seeking.
  • Items that might appear in a design portfolio.
  • Photos you've taken, or photos of artwork or other creative projects that are relevant to the job qualifications. Be aware of load time on graphic images; if it takes too long to load, people may not wait to see it.
  • Samples of your web development work, if the content and skills displayed are appropriate to the positions you are seeking.

Don't include a reference to a website that contains:

  • Jokes, animated or otherwise.
  • Cartoon characters doing inappropriate things. (Why do we have to even say this?!) True story: student submits a resume listing a website URL pointing to a page that contained an animated character urinating on a UVa logo. Student did not get an interview.
  • Nothing but your name; another actual thing done by a student applying for a job. What's the point, other than to show that you don't know how to create a webpage?
  • Photos of yourself that are not business appropriate. That means no bathing suit photos, no photos consuming alcohol, not even photos casually socializing with friends.

Bottom line: Provide relevant materials in the manner requested by the employer. Realize that not all employers are willing or have time to look at these materials. These are tools, but not the whole story.

Photos should not appear on a hard copy resume unless you're applying for an acting or theatrical position, or other work where appearance is a bona fide (genuine) occupational qualification, also called B.F.O.Q. In that case you would be submitting photos by the standards currently in place in the performing arts field.

Don't post a non-professional photo!

Employers are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on appearance or other factors not relevant to the job qualifications. However, employers do often cite "professional appearance and demeanor" as a job qualification, which is certainly relevant in many jobs.

Photos are used in online professional networking, as in LinkedIn profiles. For LinkedIn, use a photo that shows a professional appearance, showing your face from the collar up, as you would appear in professional interview attire, not tank tops, t-shirts, sun dresses, party clothes and other non-professional attire.

In your job search, whether for an internship, co-op position, or other during-college experience, and for a job after graduation, standards of professional conduct apply to all aspects of the search: your documents, all your communication and interactions with employers, including in person, in writing and verbal, including your online presence.

If your LinkedIn profile is ready for viewing by employers, you can include a link on your resume and in your correspondence. Many people include their LinkedIn URL in their signature blocks used in email.

Should you link to an online portfolio? Maybe. If it is career-related and strictly professional, yes. If its primary purpose is developmental and to help you reflect on all your academic and extracurricular experience, then the answer is probably not. See information above about e-portfolios.