N THE race to get ahead, many Singaporeans are making sure they are not found wanting online.

According to a recent poll by recruitment firm Robert Walters, 40.6 per cent of Web users here said a professional image on social media like Facebook and LinkedIn is 'very important' to them.

This is above the global average of 35.7 per cent.

The poll, conducted on the firm's website from March to last month, drew responses from 24,480 people from 19 countries, including about 2,400 from Singapore.

Another 28.4 per cent of respondents here answered 'important', bringing the total number of people here who value their online image to 69 per cent.

This is on par with the global average.

Such awareness of the need to project a professional image online is linked to the fact that more recruiters are routinely trawling social networking sites to get a better idea of job candidates.

Explaining why Singapore exceeded the global average, Ms Andrea Ross, managing director of Robert Walters Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, said it is tied to the population's tech-savviness.

Specifically, people here understand that it is easy to find information on the Web either through social networking sites or a search-engine check.

Clued-in netizens would avoid, among other things, posting negative comments or sensitive information about their company, colleagues or ex-colleagues.

Doing so would make one come across as 'highly unprofessional', said Ms Ross.

They would also be mindful of posting pictures, say, of them drunk, dressed inappropriately or behaving intimately with the opposite sex.

These would portray a potential job candidate in a negative light should an employer stumble upon the pictures, she added.

Some netizens here even go the extra mile in making sure that their profiles show up prominently in Internet search results as they believe that this will give them an edge over other contenders for a desirable job.

Mr Edvarcl Heng, 32, head of United States-based media agency MediaCom's social media unit for Asean, is one such individual.

He boosts his online professional presence by creating content on hot topics - like hiring in the age of social media - on the Web, and sharing the link to the article on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Mr Heng said he has received 'an incredible number of leads' from companies looking to hire him for consulting, speaking and employment opportunities.

Similarly, marketing director Marc Ling, 34, believes that maintaining a professional online presence would allow one to stand out among the heaps of online resumes on the Internet.

According to the Robert Walters poll, China came up tops worldwide in the number of respondents who viewed a professional online presence as 'very important' - 44 per cent.

'Singapore's Internet penetration rate is high but the sheer size of the Chinese market makes it even more competitive than it is in Singapore,' said Ms Ross.

Dos and don'ts

Dos

  • Boost your online professional presence by publishing content on the web, say, by blogging and share the link to the published article on your Facebook or LinkedIn accounts. This ensures your profile shows up prominently on the Internet search results of prospective employers.
  • Include all relevant job experience in your profile.
  • Make it clear that your opinion does not reflect your employer's.

Don'ts

  • Avoid posting negative comments or sensitive information about your company, colleagues or ex-colleagues.
  • Avoid posting pictures, say, of you drunk, dressed inappropriately or behaving intimately with the opposite sex.