We learned the hard way that this topic—the health of your social presence—needs to be covered in the first few weeks of residency. Taking stock of your public profiles can help you curate an online footprint ready for fellowship applications and the job search.
But stories are more fun than rules, so here goes this edition of “learn from these hard lessons.”
Tag, you’re it
The photos that embarrass candidates are usually not ones they posted themselves. A resident’s adorable tweenage niece tagged her aunt as she posted the scary witch filter shots on Instagram. Another resident’s little brother posted photos of him dressed as a gang member—for Halloween. A surgeon’s wife tagged her husband with before and after photos (clothed) of her augmentation.
I’m going to make this public—just for a minute
A terrific candidate told me he had unlocked his Facebook for just a few minutes so his friends could grab photos…or so he thought. The photos of a ski trip to Colorado were iconic records of what young adults do when impaired. Interspersed with the photos were memes of smoke-shrouded cityscapes that accompany every state’s legalization of recreational use. Gulp.
You would think that mug shots would be rare for physician candidates, right? Across the country, creepy law enforcement clerical employees run a lucrative side gig selling arrest mugshots to websites. A terrific candidate was surprised to learn his mugshot was on the web due to a med school spring break brawl with would-be muggers. He asked the website to take the mug shot down because the med students were released as soon as the police sorted out the muggers from the intended victims.
The site wanted $600 to take down the photo. He decided to just tell the story on his interview, and he got our offer. He suspects, though, that the mugshot cost him other interviews.
When prospective employers are Googling, sometimes eye-opening information comes from the spouse or significant other’s social media. A candidate’s wife posted great photos of their long interview weekend in an attractive city, accompanied by photo captions assuring their friends that they had absolutely no intention of leaving their home state…interviews were just recreational.
A highly principled applicant had a blog about his family’s off-the-grid adventure on a sustainable homestead. It was great reading, until we got to the rant about the evils of corporate medicine. He wrote that he would never subject himself to the soul-sucking capitalist greed of big hospitalist systems.
One candidate had a side gig in real estate that generated 10 hits when I Googled her. The hiring managers were spooked, thinking that she would be sidetracked when the real estate market heated up.
And one family physician spent a year in a medical day spa. She really wanted to get back to primary care, but practice managers viewed the current employer’s website and just did not perceive a potential fit with someone who could leave patient care to do 100% aesthetics.
A primary care resident told me he almost didn’t get into a fellowship because the fellows on the interview committee thought it was just too weird to have no online footprint at all.
Change of plans
Many programs have an “our current residents/fellows” page with a headshot and a few lines about you. Their purpose is to attract the next class, but employers look, too. It can backfire if you wax rhapsodic about the subspecialty that has always been your goal (is he going to leave after a year when he matches?) or your total commitment to a career in academic medicine (is she going to leave our private practice as soon as a faculty position opens up?).
If your plans change, ask your program coordinator to edit your profile.
A wonderfully detailed web page can also backfire if you look simply too busy to handle a full-time job This is a common pitfall for fellows in procedural subspecialties involved in device development and physicians committed to mission work. Employers worry that their job—the one that pays your mortgage and med-ed loan payments—is going to take a backseat to the patents that will make you rich and famous or the charity work that feeds your soul.
Remember, your online footprint enhances your first impression
One of the easiest and simplest ways to ensure you’re in control of the first online impression is to make a LinkedIn profile. It’s free and they have superb search engine optimization, so your LinkedIn profile is usually first or nearly first in search engine hits.
An approachable photo and a few lines about what you are doing now and what type of position you will be seeking are all you need to round out the first impression created by your CV and cover letter. They even have an “open to work” frame for the photo that tags you as a job seeker.
The most compelling Google “hits” I see are simple web pages made by physicians who have a bit of website design interest or a spouse, friend or sibling who wants to help. The profile can contain all your cover letter information, allowing you to reply for jobs with a few clicks on your phone.
In short, Google yourself and fix anything you don’t want employers to see. Make sure we find something that aligns with your current job search and presents you in a flattering light.
Happy job hunting!