Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Still think hiring managers aren’t checking your Facebook or LinkedIn and searching your name in Google? Now might be a good time to reconsider that stance: 70% of employers in 2017 used social media to screen candidates, according to a CareerBuilder survey.
This percentage isn’t likely to decrease, but don’t let it intimidate you – you won’t need to delete all your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. Let’s take a look at what you can do to prep your social media profiles for a job search, which might entail a background check or a critical look at your online reputation.
Millennials are the age group most likely to do a Google self-search, but it’s a good idea for anyone to do one before a job interview to see what comes up in search results. Check each page and do some advanced searching – you’d be surprised what Google can pick up.
When doing a self-search, does your personal website show up on the first page of results? Is the content displayed about you positive, accurate, and relevant? These are two important questions you should be asking.
Below are some other things to consider when you do a self-search on the Internet.
Check for personal information: A simple Google search can reveal a lot about you, including your phone number, address, email, location, and any photos of yourself.
Always do an Incognito Search: Using a private browsing window when you search yourself is particularly important because this allows you to see unbiased results that aren’t affected by your previous searches, logged in services, or other personalization factors that Google implements. Personalized searching is useful when it comes to searching for relevant products or services, but when preparing for a job interview, you want to see through the eyes of a hiring manager and have unbiased search results.
Set a Google alert for your name: If you set one, every time your name comes up in a Google search result, you will be notified right away by email. This is particularly helpful for those who blog or are in journalism and want to keep track of their published posts. You can also find out which sites have been linking to your work.
If you’d like a thorough analysis of your online reputation, background checking sites like BrandYourself.com provide feedback about search results for your name and will help you fix any issues you have.
Separate personal from professional
Many of us have two sides to our social media accounts: personal and professional. Yet sometimes, the line between the two is blurred. Content that belongs on a private Facebook account might end up on a professional Twitter page and vice versa. So how can you draw the line when it comes to your personal and professional sides?
Avoid posting controversial topics, religious and political views, or personal information on professional accounts. Instead, use these platforms for engaging in conversations with your connections and sharing your career wins. Keep reading below for examples of what is safe and unsafe to post on your social media accounts.
Appropriate things to post on social media
- Business updates
- Sharing news about your industry
- Photos and videos of interesting place or things to do in your city
- Current events articles
- Upcoming conferences, webinars, or other events
Inappropriate things to post on social media
- Complaints about your boss or work
- Photos of you partying
- Political and religious rants
- Vulgar and violent language
- Relationship or personal issues
Remember, you want to show off best qualities to a hiring manager in a job interview, so keep the same practice in your social media accounts. The great thing about having an active professional account is that you can pick and choose what you want to display.
Make personal accounts more secure
Before posting onto your personal social media accounts, be mindful of what you’re sharing and who is going to see it. Internet content lasts forever, and while privacy settings may protect your accounts from some threats, nothing will ever be truly private.
Keeping this in mind, there are some steps you can take to strengthen the security of your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.
- Who can see my stuff: This is the primary privacy setting you’ll find in Facebook’s Privacy Settings. You can switch the default public setting on your post under “Who can see my stuff?” and make your content only visible to friends. You can also choose who will see your post using the audience selector when you make a new Facebook status. The audience selector control remembers what you select, so unless you change your audience, all future posts will be shared with the same people.
- Limit past posts: If you have always made your Facebook posts public and now want to improve your security, limiting old posts will prevent anyone outside of your friends from seeing it.
- Timeline and tagging: You can adjust these settings for who can see tagged photos of you on your timeline, and also review any photos, statuses and comments that others have tagged you in.
- Photo settings: Even if you’ve made your Facebook statuses only visible to friends, profile pictures and cover photos are open to the public by default. Check to see if your albums and mobile uploads are set to public as well.
- Protect my Tweets: By default, your Tweets are all public. Selecting the “Protect my Tweets” option will make all your Tweets private and only visible to followers you’ve accepted.
- Turn off location: Twitter gives you the option to add your current location to your Tweet, but it isn’t a default setting.
- Discoverability: Disabling this option will prevent anyone that has your email address or phone number from searching and finding your Twitter account.
- No tagging in photos: Like Facebook, turning off this setting stops other users from tagging you in a photo they post.
Compared to Facebook, Twitter’s privacy settings are quite simple. Make sure you understand all the privacy settings of your personal social media accounts, and take the time to review your posts when in the job search process.
Keep professional accounts public
Having no online presence isn’t a good sign to hiring managers, as this indicates to them that you aren’t well-rounded. Showing that you are fluent in social media platforms is also promising to employers – after all, being savvy in social media is a desirable skill to have on a resume.
For professional social media accounts, it’s great if you can keep your name public so that it is easily searchable. Keep your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook content focused on what you can offer in your field and what accomplishments you want to highlight. Be careful of sharing too many details about your career, but also avoid not sharing enough about your job qualifications, as this may keep you from getting more opportunities to network.
Finally, remember to update your professional social media accounts frequently. Employers are looking to see that you’re engaging in your industry, whether it’s current events topics or professional development. They also want to see how you are influencing others or what you offer to your field.
Polish and clean up your accounts
The last step you need to take to ensure your accounts are job-search appropriate is to do some social media housekeeping. This doesn’t just mean removing unsavory photos or inappropriate statuses on Facebook. Check over your LinkedIn and professional profiles so that everything is up-to-date and all the information is accurate.
One of the first things a hiring manager will see on your social media profiles is your photo. Having a good profile photo will not only increase your response and referral rates, but also a way to build your personal brand. Research shows that an effective profile photo is crucial for making yourself look competent, likeable, and influential.
If you find that going through all your old Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram posts is time-consuming, Scrubber is a handy tool that show you any posts that may be a red flag to employers.
Employers can learn a lot about you from your resume and interview, but sometimes it takes a little bit more to sell yourself (although there’s a delicate balance between selling yourself and being transparent in the hiring process). Take advantage of the benefits of social media – it’s an often-needed extra step to show what you bring to the table, a way to add flair to your application, and make a lasting impression on your potential employers.