If you’re looking for a job in this tough employment market, having an online presence can definitely improve your chances of landing a position.  Sites like LinkedIn and Twitter allow you to make a professional statement and provide additional information to complement your resume.  However, understanding how to properly use these sites is essential to their helping you in your job search. Here are some things to avoid:

Including your personal reading list on your LinkedIn profile

Many LinkedIn users take advantage of the Amazon Reading List feature on their profiles.  This feature is a great way to show colleagues how you stay current on recent developments in your field.  It can also present you as a well-rounded candidate if you’re interested in professional topics outside your field—for instance, if you’re reading up on the stock market when you work in IT.  However, information on your reading list should follow the same guidelines you would follow for cocktail party conversation.  Mentions of religion, politics, or potentially controversial personal interests (i.e. hunting) don’t belong on your professional profile. They may cause a hiring manager with different views to decide they’d rather interview someone else for their opening.

Having an unprofessional Facebook profile picture

Most people seem to understand that their LinkedIn profile picture should be a relatively professional looking headshot.  However, many people don’t consider how their facebook profile picture may appear to a complete stranger. The biggest offenders I frequently see include profile pictures in bathing suits, cleavage-baring cocktail dresses, or “funny” drunken photos like a guy passed out in a bathtub.  Even if you look fantastic in a bikini (or passed out in a bathtub), you probably wouldn’t walk into your boss’s office wearing one.  Likewise, hopefully you’re not bringing your cleavage to work or showing up intoxicated—so keep those sides of yourself well hidden behind privacy settings.

Leaving your Twitter account inactive

If you have a Twitter account that’s searchable, make sure you’re regularly updating your tweets.  It’s better to not have an account than to have one whose last tweet was more than six months ago.  Likewise, if you only tweet once a month or so, there’s no point in putting your Twitter account on your resume or LinkedIn profile.  Twitter is only a valuable job searching tool for those who use it to post regular messages related to their field.

Social networking can be immensely helpful in your job search—as long as you keep it professional and relevant to your work.  Keep the personal romance novels, overly revealing pictures, and inactive profiles to yourself—they may be hurting your chances of landing the interview. Especially considering now an employer can “Google” you and find pictures of you on the Internet and any digital dirt you may have out there.