A new report by On Device Research reveals that one in 10 job candidates ages 34 and under have lost out on a job because of what they revealed on their social networking sites.  And that’s not the only set of statistics out there.  In a 2012 Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 hiring managers, 37 percent said they use social media to research job candidates, and 34 percent found reasons not to hire because of what they learned.

On average, some 300 to 400 resumes are sent in response to a single job post.  With numbers like those, a security clearance can only add value to the skills and military service your resume presents.  But eye-catching as it may be, the job could be yours to lose.  Increasingly, hiring managers are getting to know you before they meet you, capitalizing on their own social networking to learn more about prospective hires and what they don’t see in bullet points on a resume.

While the savviest of social networkers may pay attention to privacy settings, the recent studies reveal that the majority of people in their 20s and 30s focus their social media interaction among friends.  They’re not giving much thought to potential employers.  But every post, photo, reply, tweet, like or comment has the potential to sneak out of the house, bringing with it, a reputation.

If you’re working to market your skills and security clearance for a civilian career, it may be time to clean up the online you.  About a third of hiring managers say their social networking research has led them to information that tipped the scale in favor of a job candidate.

“As individuals transition from one position to another, the social network fabric that covers their online persona occasionally needs refreshing,” said Christopher Burgess, social media expert and president and co-founder of Prevendra, a security consulting firm.  “The refresh may entail going from seemingly adolescent and sophomoric presence to present. The key to social network utilization is knowing what and with whom you wish to use each social network and how the information is shared to the public at large.”

Burgess explained that while deleting old posts and photos may be a wise step, it might not wipe them from the Internet entirely.  Still, he advises job seekers to focus on who they are today and allow their social networks to tell a new story.

“Many individuals separate what they consider to be their professional persona with that of their personal persona,” said Burgess.  “The latter may appear in LinkedIn or as a professional page on Facebook. The former, may be your twitter account, which could be viewed by millions and is archived in the Library of Congress, or Google Plus.  The key is to remember your social network presence is analyzed by those you encounter for a number of reasons.”

Among hiring managers, those reasons are chiefly aimed at determining the type of person you are, with whom you are in contact and whether your online persona aligns with professional goals.  Burgess explained it’s about both what you present and the context in which you present it.

Given the fact that social networking can both hurt and help your chances of getting hired, consider the factors that have swayed employers positively.

  • An individual’s ability to communicate and write well
  • Engagement in civic and volunteer activities
  • Personal interests not listed on resumes, like art, taking part in marathons and sports,  cooking, workshops, and attending lectures, community events and fundraisers
  • Intelligent commentary rather than emotional rants on hot button issues

In Seth Godin’s most recent blog, he wrote: “Social media is a marathon, a gradual process in which you build a reputation.”

You’re building yours every day, whether consciously or not.  To land the job you want, your online persona has to match the resume and tell one collective tale of a capable, cleared and responsible individual.

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Tranette Ledford is a writer and owner of Ledford, LLC, which provides writing, editorial and public relations consulting for defense, military and private sector businesses. You can contact her at: Tranette@Ledfordllc.com.