This article was first published in the February 2015 Singapore edition of Accounting and Business magazine.

As social networking sites become increasingly intrusive, professionals are beginning to realise that online branding is critical and could impact one’s career. 

Social networking sites started as casual socialising but an increasing number of employers are using the medium as a tool to source and find out more about prospective employees. 

Companies we have spoken to also agree that they frequently use it as a tool to gauge a candidate or employee’s professionalism and whether their image is reflected appropriately online. Some employers also use it as an effective social monitoring tool. 

Social networking sites have grown to become an inevitable part of the hiring process and it is common for employers to use such sources to find information on a job seeker that is not commonly seen on a CV. Here are some easy steps to maintaining a professional image online. 

Build your own branding

Create a profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn. This ensures that when anyone tries to search for you on the internet, the best relevant results of you show up. 

When updating your information, include relevant details such as a professional photo and most recent achievements. 

Do not mix business and pleasure

Remember that your profile is easily available online. If you have content on your social media page that you wish to keep only for family and friends, you need to pre-set your privacy settings accordingly. Another option is to create an alternative profile designed specifically for colleagues and employers. 

Do not post negative comments

Your personal opinions and comments which you post online are essentially a permanent record. If you are unhappy about your boss or the company you are working for and are looking to vent your frustrations, it is best you leave those to after-work drinks with your family or friends. 

Everything that you post online could eventually be used against you in the future. Social media posts can be easily misconstrued and such comments can negatively affect how people form opinions of you even before a formal meeting. 

Keep inappropriate photos to yourself

You should know by now that nothing is really private online and can spread very quickly. Pictures of you drunk or with inappropriate hand signs, for example, should be kept hidden in your private folders and not made available for all to see. 

If prospective employers were to do a search on you and come across such pictures, it could easily jeopardise your employment opportunities. 

Limit your posts during working hours

Many employers log onto social networking sites during working hours to check on their employees’ updates. You might think that they do not but in actual fact, they constantly do it to see how often their employees post, as well as what they post. 

Regular updates during business hours can create the impression that you spend more time on social networking sites instead of working. 

Keep in mind that a professional image online is now as important as a physical one. 

What you say or do online is a direct reflection of you in the real world. Not everything is private or personal online and it is your responsibility to ensure that your online presence is portrayed positively.

Dominic Salomoni is an associate director at Robert Walters Singapore – Accounting and Finance division