Social media. It seems like no other modern innovation has more people torn on their opinions. Some would argue it’s changing the way people connect with one another and express their ideas. Others would say it’s causing people to become more depressed, vain, or misguided than ever.
Whichever way you feel about it, according to the latest Pew Research report, 72% of US adults aged 18 and above are on at least one social media network. Without a question, social media has taken over as a major medium of communication, networking, and self-expression.
If you happen to fall into the majority of people who use social media you most likely have a long trail of online content tied to your name. Given that millennials and the fledgling Gen Z (aka “zoomers”) have been using social media for most of their lives, those awkward transitions and bad decisions from our early years are perfectly preserved for anyone, including our future bosses, to come across.
You might ask, do employers really take the time to comb over my social media history? The answer is hell yes. In fact, according to CareerBuilder’s latest survey, 70% of employers reported using social media to vet candidates during the hiring process. Furthermore, that same survey found that 57% of these employers have rejected a candidate due to their social media posts.
Of the posts that employers said were reasons not to hire:
However, the surveyed employers looked favorably on:
On top of all this, it was found that a little under half of employers say they are less likely to contact a candidate if they have no social media presence.
It goes without saying, if you’re looking for a new job, you should really be concerned about how your internet presence portrays you as a potential employee. So, it’s time to dust off those old MySpace and LiveJournal accounts and get to auditing!
Here are a few tips on how to “clean up” your social media presence while on the job hunt:
The first step in your auditing process is to simply Google yourself. But be warned, if you haven’t done this lately, you might be surprised what comes up. If you go by any well-known nicknames, be sure to check on those too.
Be sure to switch over to a Google Image search as well. This will show indexed images of you that may have been tagged on other people’s social media accounts. Once you have a clear view as to what comes up on a basic Google search of your name, you can drill down into those individual platforms to curate your internet presence.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, and yes there are bound to be some “inappropriate” pictures and posts that hold special places in your heart. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your gothic or Animal House-esque fratboy phases, but it’s better that your employers just don’t know about that part of your history.
On some social media platforms, you can restrict what audience can see certain types of posts you share. For instance, Facebook allows you to switch your post settings to completely private, viewable to only your immediate friends, or lets you block specific individuals from viewing your content.
Once you’ve updated your privacy settings, log out of your account and try to view your profile as a stranger. Remember, employers do like to see what you’re like before contacting you about a position, so leave the posts and images that present you best as viewable to the public. Once you’re comfortable with what comes up, you can move on to the next step.
There are some platforms that encourage users to update frequently. When Twitter first launched, they limited updates to 140 characters to provide users with easily digestible tidbits of information. We all know Twitter has morphed into a different kind of beast, but the fact remains that a lot of profiles on that platform have thousands of tweets in their history. It’s not only Twitter though, some people update their social media accounts to exhaustion.
Some fancy themselves “edgy comedians” as well, and may have shared non-PC content on their accounts to get cheap laughs. Unless you’re applying to be an edgy comedian (or even sometimes when you are), it’s best to evaporate that questionable crap out of existence. This is advice not just for your job search, but for other aspects of your life as well.
For those platforms where you have a long history of posting and might not remember what you could have shared, you might need programs or apps to help sift through the muck. TweetDelete and Scrubber are free and easy to use social media management tools that will help you get rid of the more embarrassing or regretful content you’ve shared over the years.
Not all social media updates are annoying or bad. Lots of people like sharing their positive and uplifting experiences with their social followings. We know the words “positive” and “professional” are subjective, but when thinking about what is considered “good” social media content, place yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager.
Wholesome updates like posts with your family, pets, or your coed softball team, for example, help display your personality. If you have a certain hobby that shows off your dedication or focus, like fixing cars or painting, they will probably be looked at in a favorable light. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. Lots of hiring managers consider a candidate’s potential compatibility with their company culture during the hiring process.
Also, if you have any professional accomplishments don’t downplay those at all. Listing your accomplishments on LinkedIn is a no-brainer, but you can also share them on Instagram or Facebook. We’re sure your great aunt from Virginia who shares those savage Minion memes on Facebook would be proud that you made employee of the year too!
Who you follow on social media matters to employers as well. If you are applying for a position in a particular field or industry, it would be a good idea to follow key publications, organizations, or influencers in that particular niche. Not only that, show that you care and are on top of professional trends by resharing articles or posts by these accounts.
When you’re auditing who you’re following and interacting with, follow more relevant accounts and be sure to unfollow the questionable ones too. Let’s be honest, do you really care about what someone you had an intro to psychology class had for dinner last night? It’s time to give your friendslist a good review anyway.
Now that you’ve cleaned up your social media accounts, you can search for jobs with a clean conscious. Don’t let awkward phases or tasteless jokes be the reason why you didn’t get the job. Also, it’s a good idea to keep up your good behavior on social media, because employers do also keep up with their employees on social media well after they’re hired.
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