A Guest Post by Lisa Bevill, Fortuna Admissions
Are there embarrassing pictures of you on Instagram? Or are you tagged in a Facebook photo from a best friend’s party that you wouldn’t show your mom? Maybe you took to Twitter once, in a fit of frustration, with a thinly veiled insult directed at a teacher. Or you’ve put off creating your LinkedIn profile.
Be aware that a projection of you appears online—whether you’re engaged in its active curation or not. And if you’re a serial poster, what you elect to share reflects on your judgment and maturity.
Your social media profile matters, especially if you hope an MBA is in your future. Like it or not, your posts are fair game to business schools (or future employers, for that matter). According to Kaplan Test Prep survey data, more than a third of MBA admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles to help their decision-making (35% in 2017, up from 22% in 2011) and 33% admit that they do it “often.”
As former Admissions Director for Madrid’s IE Business School, my colleagues and I were looking for consistency across a candidate’s professional and personal identities. Do you seem like the person we met on paper? If you’re invited to join our community, how will you represent our business school? How well does your LinkedIn profile reflect your personal brand?
In my coaching role at Fortuna Admissions, prompting clients to review their online presence has become an early-stage necessity, since the overall narrative that emerges about you through social media can either help or hurt your credibility. It’s essential that your social media imprint is both positive and consistent, and it’s not too early to start doing so with business school admissions in mind.
Here are five social media tips to consider if an MBA is in your future:
- Do an online audit. Start by Googling your name to see what pops up, and how much, and check additional search engines like Bing or Yahoo. Edit or remove undesirable content about you that might appear on the first few pages. Log out to view your social media channels from a public perspective. Which may prompt you to refine those ever-evolving security settings (see tip 3).
- If you have doubts, delete. Review your history of posts, photos and comments on Instagram, blogs, Facebook, Twitter or other social sites for publically viewable content that may reflect poorly on you. Beyond the obvious—drug references, sexual comments, profanity—screen for laments or rants that swerve into TMI. Err on the side of caution, as social media persists in blurring the lines between what’s public and private. Also, shorthand may be acceptable across electronic media, but profiles littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes won’t inspire confidence about your writing skills.
- Revisit your privacy settings. If you’re someone who leaps at the chance to quip spontaneous, uncensored messages—which social media was designed to do—be sure to manage your privacy settings by actively controlling who can view your irreverent monologues. You can control your own photos and comments, but you can’t always control what others share or post about you. Be sure to revisit and update settings so you must approve third-party posts tagged with your name or photo. In the era of digital, it’s just as possible that somebody else may post images or video you wouldn’t want an admissions office to see.
- Create a strong LinkedIn profile. As the most professional among the various social media channels you may be using, LinkedIn is of special interest to MBA admissions. If you’re new to LinkedIn, start by stepping back and creating a list of your accomplishments and unique distinctions. Then, look for ways to include these key elements in your profile, in addition to your professional experience. Schools want to get to know you, which means allowing your passions and values to come across, as well as your experience. The summary statement, for example, is a place to share your unique qualities and some creativity. Your LinkedIn profile is also a place to cite awards or accolades, even if academically based, as well as club or other affiliations. Business schools expect that you’re a good networker, and your well-developed LinkedIn presence supports an image of professional visibility. (For more on this topic, view this 8-minute video blog on using LinkedIn to improve your MBA strategy.)
- Use good judgement. Nothing is temporary anymore (no matter what Snapchat tells you). While you’re prudently deleting that smattering of borderline posts from the past and setting your privacy to known circles, the time is now to curb bad habits like reflexive over-sharing. Since the advent of screen shots (and back-up servers), what you think can be deleted can also be saved. Similarly, you’ll want to be discerning about what and who you choose to like or follow. It’s all visible, which is where your judgement comes in: While b-schools aren’t going to screen out candidates for their political views (unless extreme or racist), be aware that liking, following, or engaging with controversial pages or groups can become a tricky issue.
There’s no need to feel paranoid that MBA admission officers will be trolling your ancient Facebook photos—they have a hefty workload, so an online audit is likely to be brief. Ultimately, your savvy social media engagement is fairly straightforward. Your filter should always be whether you are putting things out there that appropriately reflect what you care about and who you are.
Fortuna Admissions Director Lisa Bevill served as MBA Admissions Director at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.