Imagine the scenario: You send your standard resume and cover letter to a recruiter, but she also knows what you said online two years ago, what music festival you went to at the weekend, and what you had for breakfast.

We live in a digital age, where nearly everything we post online can be viewed – not just by our friends and contacts, but complete strangers. Rather than shy away from all the publicity, embrace it and use it to your advantage in your job search. Building a credible personal brand online is a smart move for professionals in every industry sector.

Here are some useful guidelines to get you started:

  • Check Out your Digital Footprint: Google yourself in Incognito mode and see what crops up. Pay special attention to the first page of results as most users won’t venture further than this. If there’s a negative search result, you may be able to bury it, especially if the content originated from your social media accounts. Then check out the other social networking sites where you are active, from an outsider’s perspective, to see the information a recruiter will find. Keep track of your digital footprint – and manage its impact – by doing similar searches on a regular, ideally monthly, basis.

  • Change Your Account Settings: If you don’t want recruiters to see what you are saying and doing online, then it’s time to make those profiles private. Facebook is an obvious candidate, as it is widely used as a personal social networking site. But have a think about other sites too, such as Twitter and Instagram. Are you using them professionally or personally? If the answer is ‘personally’, then make them private and keep them private.

  • Develop Your LinkedIn Profile: LinkedIn is the one site you should seriously consider as a professional in any industry. The social media giant bills itself as ‘the world’s largest professional network’ and now counts in excess of 500 million users. Most recruiters will automatically look for your profile on LinkedIn when you make contact with them, so make sure they like what they see.

Invest time in creating an engaging, well-written LinkedIn profile and make sure you include a professional photo. And use your full name, so you can be easily found in searches. Then make the most of the other LinkedIn features on offer: build a comprehensive network of connections, request recommendations, join and engage with relevant groups, follow companies and professionals in your industry sector, upload articles you have written, and share and comment on posts that promote your professional brand.

Sounds like a lot of work? The secret is little and often! Building a powerful LinkedIn profile isn’t going to happen overnight. Ideally, set aside a period of time each day to develop your online brand and you’ll reap the rewards further down the track.

So, now imagine the scenario: You send your standard resume and cover letter to a recruiter, who can also see that you are actively engaged in your industry on LinkedIn, have published an article or two, and come highly recommended by previous employers or colleagues.

Your personal brand can help you stand out from the crowd.  Start building it today!