By Daniel B. Kline
The Motley Fool —
Looking for a job has become both more complicated and easier in the internet era.
Being able to do digital search probably beats thumbing through the classifieds, but just finding what to apply for involves looking a lot more places. In addition, the rise of digital job postings has sped up the entire timeline. Jobs get posted at all hours of the day, and in some cases, if you don’t apply quickly, you may be out of luck.
But whether you’re just seeking new challenges, hate your current job, or are entering the employment market for the first time, there are a few things you need to do before even starting the process. Generally, it’s a case of making sure you control what your potential employer will learn about you as much as you possibly can.
Clean up your social media
One of the first things many people in the hiring space do for a possible candidate is check out that person’s social media. That means that if you have the wrong types of things posted, you may never even get an interview and you’ll never know why.
Things to take down include the obvious, like that photo of you and your buddies smoking pot or being noticeably drunk. You’ll also want to avoid any overt political statements that might be polarizing. And you’ll want to remove any personal drama (like complaining about an ex) and anything that might convince your potential employer you may be more trouble than you’re worth.
In addition, you want to avoid looking as if you have any obsessions that may detract from your work. The occasional picture of your cat is fine, but enough photos to make a flipbook may not be a great idea.
In addition to checking your social-media profile, employers may simply put your name in to a search engine. That could lead to problems even if the search results show someone with your name getting arrested or streaking at a baseball game.
There’s not much you can do about this, but it’s important to have an idea of what will come up. If it’s something truly awful — like you share your name with a hardcore criminal or you’re an adult who really loves My Little Pony — it’s important to be able to answer the question if it comes up.
Make sure you have a professional email
In college, having email@example.com may have seemed like a great idea. That handle, or even something like firstname.lastname@example.org, comes off as unprofessional. You can keep your wacky email for your personal correspondence, but for your job hunt you’ll want something very basic, involving your name or a variant on it.
Get your resume proofread
It’s amazing how often, when I was in a position to hire writers and editors, I received resumes and cover letters with glaring spelling errors. That’s obviously worse for people seeking work in those fields, but it’s bad for anyone.
Spelling errors may be caught by spell-check, but it’s still possible for other errors to get through. If professional editors can get things wrong on their resumes, anyone can, so make sure to have a good editor check your basic materials and any job-specific versions of your resume or cover letter you send out.
Line up references
Unless you have very limited job experience, it’s not necessary to list your references on your resume. It’s also not necessary to put “references available upon request,” because, well, of course they are.
What you will want to do is check with your references and make sure they’re willing to help. You’ll also want to make sure you have the correct contact info and that they’ll be available during your job search.
Even if someone likes you a lot and will have good things to say, he or she may not return an unexpected call. And if you pick someone who maybe doesn’t feel as positively about you as you thought, that person might be kind and suggest you choose another reference.