Emily Post for the tech generation: How to behave online

May 17th 2011
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School's almost out, but class is always in session when it comes to the job search. As new graduates prepare to enter the work world, they should pay as much attention to technology etiquette as they do promoting their mastery of technology, according to Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of Job Hunting For Dummies. Messmer offers insight into how to avoid six common faux pas when launching a career.

"The class of 2011 can use technology and social media to help their career prospects", Messmersaid. "But just one unprofessional online post or mobile device misstep can derail an applicant's chances of landing a coveted role."

Messmer and the career experts at Robert Half identify six of the biggest technology etiquette errors and tips to avoid them on the job hunt:

  1. Posting imprudently. Employers often turn to the Web for information about job applicants. Polish and protect your reputation by using a combination of good judgment, adequate privacy settings, and the delete button. Remove indiscriminate photos and questionable content from social media sites, blogs, and chats. Think strategically about what you share, post, and tweet going forward.
  2. Leaving your bio blank. Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn provide space to summarize who you are and what you're looking for in a job or career. An incomplete profile is a missed opportunity. Craft a profile that highlights your relevant work history and accomplishments, internships, education, community activities, and student group or professional association memberships. Help employers find you by using key industry terms when describing your skills, objectives, and positions of interest.
  3. Corresponding carelessly. E-mail is a more casual medium, but the rules of writing still apply. Proofread your job application materials and e-mail messages diligently. Hot job prospects can cool quickly if your message is littered with typos or texting shorthand.
  4. Adopting an 'all about me' attitude. Networking sites make it easy to reach out for job leads, introductions, recommendations, and general career assistance. That said, you won't get far if you inundate contacts with requests but rarely return the favor. Be gracious when asking for help, offer prompt appreciation, and look for ways to reciprocate. Paying it forward is a great way to build professional goodwill.
  5. Experiencing technical difficulties. More companies are interviewing promising long-distance candidates using software applications like Skype. Before a video meeting, do a trial run with a friend to make sure your Webcam and microphone are working properly. This also will help you fix any lighting issues or distracting background elements. For phone interviews, make sure you have a strong cell signal if you don't have access to a landline.
  6. Misusing mobile devices during interviews. Be smart with your smartphone: Turn it off. Loudly chatting on the phone or listening to your iPod as you wait for the interviewer is inconsiderate. While it should go without saying, never respond to a call or text message during the actual interview. And don't text a hiring manager after the meeting -- pick up the phone or send an e-mail message if you haven't heard back within a couple of weeks.  

For additional etiquette tips on using professional and social networking sites, mobile devices, e-mail, instant messaging, Web conferencing, and more, download Robert Half's comprehensive guide, Business Etiquette: TheNewRules ina Digital Age.


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