During my stint as owner of an advertising agency, I was in charge of hiring staff. One of the most interesting aspects of hiring was reading cover letters and résumés and then meeting the people who sent them. The difference between the image created by the résumé and the reality of the person was sometimes astonishing.
In particular I remember a person applying for an art director position. His résumé clearly indicated he had the skills for the position, and his writing portrayed him as an excellent candidate. Yet when he arrived, there was a big disconnect, starting with clothing that was not professional. When he shook hands and talked with me, he couldn’t look me in the eye. If he didn’t know how to present himself and couldn’t focus on me, how, I wondered, would he interact with clients, prospects, or suppliers? He didn’t get the job.
The same problem exists today, but in a different way. People on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn create online images of themselves. In doing so, there are two potential traps:
■ Is the image you present a positive one, an image you would be comfortable having a recruiter, client or boss see? Would that image encourage them to want to hire, promote, or do business with you?
■ Is that image consistent with the in-person you? A consistent image, both in person and online, engenders trust because people will have confidence they are dealing with the real you. When the online and in-person image are different, then people lose trust.
In addition, your online image is affected not only by what you post about yourself, but also by what others post about you. Look regularly for photos posted by others in which you have been tagged. If those photos show you in a less than flattering light, you can, at the very least, remove the tag. If it is egregious, contact the person who posted it and ask him or her to remove it. If someone writes something negative about you, contact the person and ask that the reference to you or the post itself be removed.
The bottom line: You can have fun or be creative with your image in a way that reflects positively on you. Keep in mind that you want that online image to be consistent with the person you are in real time.