Job searches rely on making lots of great first impressions. And once upon a time you could control your first impressions, by actually being there when they happened. It may surprise you to learn that, a long, long time ago (back when I was 40), humans introduced themselves to one another in person. Face to face, not on Facebook or Facetime.

Those days are long gone.

Today, job seekers make most of their first impressions online. You can’t get through a dinner out with friends without someone pulling out a smart phone to look something up. When I recommend a restaurant, or movie, or a beer, where do you go to check it out? You go online. In the office, when you mention you are looking for a solution to an IT problem, and I recommend my IT vendor, what do you do? Do you leap to the phone to call them … or do you check them out online first?

When you Google your own name, what do you see? There is your first impression. Google is the new business card.

Every time someone refers a candidate to me, I check them out online. If they are on the hunt for their next position, I assume they paid some attention to their digital first impression. And I’m often disappointed.

If you are a business professional about my age, and your LinkedIn profile is bare bones, you are sending the message that you are behind the curve with technology. It is assumed that you either don’t understand it, or perhaps you are afraid of it. Like it or not, that’s your first impression, and it is darn hard to shake. The fact that you have not yet found social media relevant to your work, or that you find it a silly waste of time only confirms the suspicion.  You may think that not having a robust online profile confirms that you are a mature, secure, serious professional who has no time to waste on social media. But among people who use Google to form a first impression, rest assured, that’s not what they think.

Conversely, if you are an early career business professional, and your LinkedIn profile is bare bones, it is assumed that you know your way around social networks because you are young, so the absence of a professional profile means you are either lazy or perhaps you just don’t understand how things work in the real world. Not good.

So if your current job is quite secure, and if you have no interest in being contacted about a new job, then by all means, feel free to remain digitally anonymous. Put out a big old “Beware of Dog” sign online. No problemo.

But if you are even thinking of making a first impression with someone who is in a position to help you, like an HR professional, or a headhunter, or someone who is well networked … well then, you would be wise to make yourself more digitally approachable.