Making an excellent and professional first impression online is absolutely necessary in the job search process.
Many employers find their future employees entirely through online job searches, using either LinkedIn or online job posting sites (e.g. Indeed.ca).
An interview doesn't usually happen until your future employer has had at least some positive impression of you through what they find online. So what do you need to do?
Clean up your social media
If they can search for it, they can find it.
Larger firms use third-party agencies to do social media searches on prospective employees. The last thing they want is to hire someone with a penchant for doing and saying things that can embarrass the company.
Cleaning up doesn't mean erasing your personality, however. Employers are as interested as your friends are in seeing that you're an interesting and engaging person.
Use social media to your advantage
Check out this great resource guide from the University of Waterloo.
Build a dynamic and complete LinkedIn profile
And keep it up to date. This is true even after you've landed that first job. Your LinkedIn profile should indicate your professional goals.
Join LinkedIn interest groups and ASK questions!
Being an active participant on LinkedIn is much more likely to make a positive and lasting impression with someone who may be interested in hiring you.
LinkedIn provides a quick 'how to' guide on this and other strategies.
Develop an e-Portfolio
Use e-portfolios to showcase your work and highlight your interests and your ability to reflect meaningfully on what you can contribute to a team or organization.
Consider taking a portfolio building course (e.g. CMNS 200) or experiment with free e-portfolio building websites.
Check out this great e-portfolio resources site at the University of Waterloo.
Make sure to have an online presence
Some students and graduates don't like using social media and do not have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, etc. But NOT having a presence online can be almost as problematic as not having an unprofessional one.
At the bare minimum, stay connected on LinkedIn.
Twitter is also a good site for those who are looking for a simpler form of social media to use, and it's a useful site for staying on top of professional organizations and trends.