Skip to main content
leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Even as recently as 10 years ago, a first impression was often made in person. If you were in the job market, perhaps a headhunter or colleague would refer you for a specific position. After that crucial "word of mouth" reference, it would be up to you to dazzle a prospect with your intelligence, charm and suitability – in person.

While online hasn't entirely replaced the personal recommendation, today's first impressions are mostly made in cyberspace. Every endorsement you receive from a contact enhances your LinkedIn profile. Online testimonials add lustre to the impression you make before the in-person meeting.

Headhunters, hiring managers and business prospects are likely to look you up online and believe what they read and see there. The online impression you make is often as important – if not more so – than a word-of-mouth referral.

How to make a killer first impression online? Scour the Web and scrutinize anything that has your name attached to it, keeping these nine tips in mind.

1. You are the curator of your own online presence.

It takes a refined sense of social media etiquette and some diligent watchdogging to ensure your online image is businessworthy. Even if you make an intentional effort to clean up your language and become tactful in your comments, you should look beyond your personal activity. When was the last time you googled yourself? Your Web presence may fan out more broadly than you knew. Pursue each link and be sure to search images as well.

2. If your grandmother wouldn't recognize your online photo, it's too retouched.

Tempting as it may be to remake yourself on social media, resist the urge to go overboard retouching your photo in Photoshop. Of course, you want your LinkedIn headshot to look its business-best, but too much colour correction here or too much shadow removal there can leave you looking like a characterless clone.

3. Don't air your dirty laundry online.

So, you may have just been jilted in the worst way possible. Even though you want the world to know how your ex is beyond cruel, absolutely do not vent online. Nothing sends up a red flag more than a nasty or whiny post. Attempting to intentionally defame someone online often says more about the defamer than the defamed.

4. Update your LinkedIn profile before it gets stale.

If your summer job in high school still shows up on your LinkedIn profile after you are well into your professional career, your profile update is long overdue. With each step up the career ladder, be sure to refine your profile and lose those inessential entries. Even if your career trajectory stalled lately, keep your profile content as fresh as possible. You may have a new skill set to add after attending a training session or a recent client whose endorsement you can solicit.

5. Clean your online profile untll it's spotless.

Peruse your social media accounts with a critical eye. Not only do you want to delete any inappropriate photos or off-colour language, you want to project a level of maturity and class.

6. One picture is not worth 1,000 words.

Oversharing has become the bane of social media's domain. Instagram makes sharing pictures easy and instantaneous, but is abused by overuse for the trivial or unimportant. Continuous pictures of your cat can quickly go from cute to annoying. Share sparingly, saving it for those exceptional occurrences.

7. The Twitteratti: It's like the paparazzi for the rest of us.

Some Twitter users, as so often happens, obsess about quantity over quality. While the platform lets you create a sense of virtual community among others with similar interests, some feel the need to cultivate huge numbers of followers to prove credibility. But, as appropriate users of Twitter know, once a community gets too big, meaningful sharing is drowned out.

8. Unfriending: The cruellest cut of all.

Tempting as it may be to unfriend someone on Facebook who posts pointless prattle, it is far better to "unfollow" the person. Unfriending can eventually come to light and burn bridges. Better still, become more discerning about accepting friend requests. You are better off ignoring a request, which is a benign act, than taking on a Facebook friend you may end up wanting to drop.

9. You can't be amazing at everything, so pick and choose.

Refining your social media presence is crucial to "branding" yourself. But, let's be honest, there are so many social media platforms that it can be difficult to be on all of them in a meaningful way. Pick the ones you enjoy the most because that's where you will focus your efforts best. Having an online profile on LinkedIn makes sense for most business people. After that, choose a social media outlet where you feel you can have the most impact.

Vicky Oliver is a leading career development expert and the multi-best-selling author of five books, including 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions (Sourcebooks, 2005) and Live Like a Millionaire (Without Having to Be One) (Skyhorse, 2015). For more information, visit