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Luton Borough Council

Digital footprint


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What is a digital footprint and why does it matter?

Your digital footprint is the traces of personal information about you that are left behind on the internet. This includes information which you voluntary create yourself – like your social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Google; as well as information that is created by sources such as databases, cookies and IP addresses.

Your digital footprint matters, because whatever you can see and find out about yourself online – potential employers can too – the good and the bad. With the job market as competitive as ever, now is the right time to think about pro-actively managing your digital footprint.


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Pitfalls of the digital age

In today’s ‘always on’, digital age, we love to share our personal information online with our friends, even our colleagues and sometimes strangers too. Whilst many of us try to keep our professional and personal lives separate to some degree – even online - are we being as careful as we think we are?

A quick Google search using your name and location could bring potentially revealing and surprising results. For instance that outdated and embarrassing MySpace profile you never deleted, or your Facebook timeline with compromising photographs.

So whilst your professional job applications may demonstrate your aptitude, attention to detail, hard work ethic and likeable character, could the same be said for your digital footprint? You may be shocked to learn that aside from traditional recruitment formalities such as curriculum vitaes and interviews, employers are increasingly using digital profiles to judge, verify, interrogate and compare job applications to – even before the interview stage.

In fact, research shows that 65 per cent of employers will use your social media profiles to evaluate your professionalism in terms of social conduct, 51 per cent to evaluate your personality fit into the company’s culture and 45 per cent to learn more about your qualifications. Overall, 43 per cent of employers in 2013 said that information they found online helped them decide not to hire a particular candidate – with only 19 per cent saying that they found reasons to hire.

So, if job hunting in the digital age isn’t just about how you convey yourself on a piece of paper, you may want to rethink how casually you represent yourself online too – and who can see.


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So what can I do to manage my digital footprint?

One of the first things you can do to help manage your online presence is to lock down your privacy settings on all of your social media profiles, so only your close friends or people you know and trust can view your information. On many networking sites you can also check how your profile appears to the general public, which is a great tip for finding out what strangers and potential employers can see about you.

It is also wise to make sure that whatever social platforms you are using, you have a respectable profile picture, you don’t make references to illegal or inappropriate content and that your communication, grammar and spelling does you justice. You should also make sure that you avoid making any inflammatory or discriminatory remarks, joining offensive groups or posting false information about yourself or others.

This advice should be applied to both social and more professional networking sites – but be mindful that research shows that employers significantly favour personal sites like Facebook and Twitter to judge your character, rather than professional networks such as LinkedIn, since personal sites are deemed to be a more accurate representation of your true persona.

Something else you may not have thought about is to deliberately and accurately claim your online presence. This would help to protect you from any incorrect negative perceptions which could arise from the digital footprints of other people with the same name as you. You can also safeguard yourself from identity theft by not sharing specific personal details online, and by ensuring your passwords are secure and changed frequently, so that no one else can take control of your online profiles or jeopardise your digital reputation.

Another simple tip is to set up the ‘Me on the Web’ feature provided by Google. This will alert you when new information about you, like your name or email address, is published online. This enables you to keep a close watch on your digital footprint and what others are saying about you too. This tool can also be used to assist you in removing unwanted content from search results.


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It’s not all doom and gloom

Remember that your digital footprint is also an opportunity for you to sell yourself! Looking for a job in design, technology, publishing or marketing? Then get online and showcase your skills and abilities through blogs, e-books, videos, whitepapers and online portfolios.

Employers are searching for well-rounded individuals – which means that demonstrating evidence of not only job skills, but your wider interests and personal qualities (such as hobbies, clubs and associations, achievements and groups) could work in your favour.


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© 2023 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ