Social Media: 5 Tips to Curate Your Online Presence for Residency Apps

Social Media is Your Problem

Five Tips to Cultivate your Social Media PresenceAccording to a 2010 Medscape survey 90% of program directors agree “residency candidates should be accountable for unprofessional behavior discovered through social media.” In 2015, a resident asked about my website during an interview – twice. While my sample size is small, I consider this proof that online search is used to screen or research you! What does this mean if you’re a third year medical student? You need to curate your social media presence NOW, for future residency applications.

Program directors, residency coordinators, residents, and support staff all take part in reviewing applications. After board scores, personal statements, letters of recommendation and other screening tools they are still left with a pile of hundreds, or even thousands, of applicants. It takes only a few minutes per applicant to do a Google search, and so many interesting – and embarrassing – things may come to light; why wouldn’t they use search to weed out unwise students? While you may not like it, you Facebook or Twitter feed can have an effect on your residency application. In fact, your online existence may play a role in whether or not you get approved for audition rotations, which most osteopathic students are applying for already.

But… My Name is Common

If you have a “generic” sounding name, like Mary Johnson or James Smith, you can choose to skip this effort. The more common your name is, the less likely you’ll rank highly in Google results, so there isn’t much benefit for you. And the use of a Google search is typically to discover “bad” things, not find a photo of you saving an baby from an earthquake.

What Can I Do About It?

Going back to being asked about my website – I had to reply “Which one?” because in addition to working on FMS I have a site for myself, from my prior career in web development. One skill I polished was “Search Engine Optimization” and it’s how you can make things you WANT seen rise to the top of the results. You don’t need to pay someone a ton of money to do so – just create a professional social media presence. To help you get started I came up with a pretty basic to-do list you can achieve in less than an hour – unless you’ve forgotten your passwords.

Five Tips for Curating Your Social Media Presence for Residency

  1. Google Yourself 
    • Look at every link that goes to a page about you
    • Realize that you need to go beyond the first page of results
    • Make note of anything you need to fix (ie: wow, you forgot you even had a Flavors/MySpace page)
  2. Check your Images
    • I shouldn’t have to note that if your friends tag you in photos drinking, smoking, partying it will reflect poorly on you
    • Conversely, if every photo they find shows you appearing professional there’s no risk you go in the “no” stack
  3. Create Your Public & Professional Presence
    • Have a “public” Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
    • Use the same photo on all sites
    • THINK BEFORE YOU POST. Write it in Notepad and wait 24 hours to post it. You’ll save yourself potential embarrassment.
  4. Lock down your privacy on Facebook
    • Delete anything unprofessional. Now.
    • Set all posts to be “Friends except Acquaintances”
    • Change settings so posts to your wall MUST be approved by you
    • Login weekly and delete anything “friends” post that compromise your professional image
  5. Buy
    • You can create a professional site using free tools like WordPress
    • Allows you to further link to your public social media accounts
    • Gives the most control over your online image

If you had to spend a lot of time on the second step (deleting images is a lot of work) this will be a weekend project, but it’s worth the effort.

If you want more advice on the topic of adjusting your social media presence for residency see the resources listed below.

By Pixie




Read More

AMA Wire – Will social media impact your residency, fellowship application?

KevindMD – Why I’m not hiding social media from residency interviews

Medscape, 2010 – Use of Social Media by Residency Program Directors for Resident Selection

PreMedLife – Social Media Habits That Are Bad For Your Med School Applicant Image

SDN, 2008 – The Successful Match: Facebook, a new way to screen applicants?


PS: While researching this post I discovered a $795 one-day “residency” on strategic use of social media. I have a new back up plan if the Match doesn’t go well tomorrow!


Pixie is happiest reading with a cup of tea in hand. She enjoys women’s health, adolescent medicine, painting and polymer clay. For more info, see her much longer bio on the author page.

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