It's hard to imagine someone who is not plugged in to the myriad social networks. While the verb "Facebook" is not an official entry in a dictionary, it has become a commonplace request among friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Is it entirely necessary, though, to sanitize all of your profiles when you are job hunting?
"Social media presence is not only important for day-to-day interactions with family and friends or even for networking, but it is also becoming more and more pertinent in the employment process, no matter what field you are in," says Jessica Salinas, the co-founder of Al Cielo Media, a small media management company. "Employers want to know about you past the resume and the cover letter. Looking at those day-to-day interactions gives them an insight into who you are as a complete person -- friend, student and employee."
Salinas says the most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about the intersection between your online self and your potential employer's eyes is that you have the control and can portray yourself exactly the way you see fit. Take the time to figure out what your brand is. What are your interests; what do you stand for; who are you? Doing this exercise will not only help create your online brand but also ensure that how others perceive you is equivalent to how you perceive yourself.
"If you choose to publicly share information, make sure it's working to your advantage," Ryan Hunt, a senior career adviser at CareerBuilder says.
Making sure that your online self and physical self align is important now more than ever; as 37 percent of companies are researching candidates on social networking sites, according to Hunt.
CareerBuilder recently sent out a survey to hiring managers asking them why they use social networks to conduct background research. Sixty-five percent said that they search online to see whether the candidate presents himself/herself professionally. A little over half of the hiring managers said they want to see if the candidate would be a good fit for the company culture.
With employers placing importance on what they find online, what are your best bets to make yourself more marketable?
"This may sound counterintuitive, but the most common mistake I see in creating a social media presence, specifically, is not being social," says Salinas. "Many create a profile to create one and rarely return. Treat your profiles as you would any other relationship."
Post photos of you and your friends or funny animal videos from YouTube, but you should also be able to balance your profile with articles that you find interesting and intelligent comments about the world around you. Employers like to see that potential hires are well-rounded.
A very big "don't" is to bash former employers on any of your social network profiles. "Recruiters are sensitive to how employees speak publicly about their organizations and may not trust a candidate if they have a history of sharing their thoughts or, worse yet, badmouthing company news or policies," cautions Hunt. Salinas urges people to check their privacy settings and customize their profile if they must vent or don't want to be constantly fearful of what they post.
While taking precaution and understanding your brand and how people perceive you online, don't lose sight of why you participate in social networks in the first place: to communicate with friends and the rest of the world.
"Don't get so cautious about what you post online that you lose yourself. Most employers, in my experience, like to see that you have a social life outside of work, so don't be too scared," says Salinas.