Digital TMI: The Killer of Your Second First Impression

This is a guest post by Mark Babbitt, who I just spent 3 days with at #BIF10, who also founded YouTern, one ofTHE best sites for career info. Read, enjoy and apply!!!! And get his book (with Ted Coiné) "A World Gone Social".

You are a Social Age job seeker. A digital native.

Your value proposition is clear. Your resume is immaculate; the LinkedIn Profile: perfect. Your cover letter could have been written by Shakespeare (well, except for the use of “thou” and “leadeth”). Based on these points alone, every recruiter in the universe should want to interview you.

So why aren’t you getting any calls?

We all know it’s important to make a good first impression. Few, however – despite all the advice to the contrary – have grasped the importance of passing another test: the “Second First Impression”.

As we discuss at length in A World Gone Social: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – even Instagram and Pinterest and the very blog you created to showcase your talent – are being thoroughly reviewed by recruiters, hiring managers and HR.

What you may still not know is: these filters are engaged long before the recruiter contacts you. You will never know you were ever seriously considered; you’ll never receive any feedback.

Just silence.

Sadly only 50% of entry-level talent will make the cut. Not due to those red solo cup pictures. And not because you are human and like to have fun once in a while. Except for the social puritans, most recruiters, when they see this stuff, think, “Who doesn’t like to have fun?”

No, those candidates that go from “Wow, this candidate looks really good” to “Um, no… Next!” fail due to one problem: Digital TMI.

Most recruiters define the digital version of TMI as any tweet or post that includes:

  • References to excessive partying or illegal drug use (or the after-effects)
  • A post that portrays you as an immature high school student (including remarks of a sexual nature)
  • Racially-motivated comments (even when directed at your own race)
  • Content that denigrates either gender (and “jk” and “lol” does not make this okay)
  • Excessive swearing (only the hottest celebrities and most successful bloggers can pull that off)
  • Any negative comment about your previous employers
  • Entries that display a lack of passion at work (including the all-too-common and innocent-enough sounding “God, I can’t wait for Friday!”)
  • Public venting just to make yourself feel better
  • Excessive whining, troll statements or diva-like comments
  • Victim statements of any kind

Depending on the recruiter, you may get away with one or two of these TMI mistakes. In the long run, however, recruiters are ultimately looking for someone who not only meets minimum qualifications –  but is also a fit for the company culture.

And a party-animal whiner who never chose to grow up and then blames everyone else for their insensitive outlook on life is typically NOT a good fit.

(Okay, that’s a harsh example – although I would submit that those entering the workforce leave recruiters with this impression far too often.)

Self-assess your current online brand. Work just as hard on that as you did your resume, LinkedIn profile and cover letter. Then take a look at the culture of the companies where you’ll be submitting an application, and ask yourself:

Would my current online presence create a positive “second first impression”?

The original version of this post was published on January 25, 2013 on by Mark Babbitt.


Mark Babbitt is the CEO and Founder of YouTern, a talent community that enables college students, recent graduates and young careerists to become highly employable by connecting them to high-impact internships, mentors and contemporary career advice. Mark has been featured as a keynote speaker and workshop director by the Tiger Woods Foundation, Smithsonian Institute and National Association of Colleges and Employers. He is an in-demand speaker at colleges and fraternities, including UCLA, the California State University system, New York University, Delta Sigma Pi and Alpha Kappa Psi.

Together with Ted Coiné, they will be releasing their book A World Gone Social on September 22, 2014.


True Leadership is Social

Every once in a while, you are privileged to witness the embodiment of what has become a buzzword, Servant Leadership - someone who is innately wired as a servant leader – authentic, genuine and sincere.  I’m privileged to have met a few of these people in my career – in fact, five “someones” recently at a warm, welcoming, generous visit to Enterasys’s headquarters in Andover, MA.  Two of the five, Vala Afshar and Brad Martin, have just written a 2012 & 2013’s Must Read book, The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.  To understand the power of this book, I need to tell you a story…of how I met them.

Last spring, I started noticing Vala’s insightful, kind, wise, and very human tweets.  I reached out and he invited me to visit him on my way up to Maine this past September.  I arrived and was greeted like a queen! To my incredible surprise, because Vala remembered our tweets about lobster, Brian Townsend, Director of Global Services and Ops, had prepared a feast of lobster tails with a risotto and an unimaginable dessert.  How did Vala remember that I loved lobster? Because that’s how Vala, and Brad, and the rest of the team, are wired (no pun intended) – to be social, to care, to make sure others matter.

Brad and Vala don’t preach about why businesses must be social – they live it, everyday.  Theirs is a real, living, breathing, continuous narrative about how a mid-market company refocused their culture to delight their customers by respecting and trusting their employees to focus on providing meaningful outcomes for their customers.  They detail the why, how, when, and what in transforming the culture and flattening the organization.  Vala and Brad share the culture’s benefits to their top line, bottom line and most importantly, human line.  If you’ve read Steve Denning’s book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management, you’d think he was writing about Enterasys – and he was!

When you read this book, as you should, don’t start making excuses as to why it doesn’t “really” apply to.  You’d be lying to yourself and closing the door to creating an excellent company.  The pursuit of social business excellence applies to any company making any thing that touches any one in any form, not just technology companies. The fundamental building block of Enterasys’ success is not technology – they make that loud and clear – it’s people.  Technology can make being a social business easier, but it can’t make it happen.  People do.

Please read The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence.  Think about how you can adapt some of these ideas for your own organization.  It may seem scary – you may lose the perception of the control you never really had; you may realize you’ve made some bad hires and constrained some great ones; your customers may see behind the curtain.  Yet, overcome the fears, because the rewards are so great, on so many levels.