It’s the moment you’ve spent the past two months waiting for! Finally, following day after day of scouring job boards, sending out resumes and cover letters, and hearing nothing but radio silence in return, you get an interview. Better yet, you hear back from an employer who might just be ready to offer you your dream job.
You’re so excited that it almost feels like you’ve landed the job already, but you manage to calm yourself down long enough to start thinking about preparation. You really want—and need—this job. How can you put yourself in a better position to land it? Interview preparation is one obvious step, but another—and one that job seekers overlook all too often—is social media clean up. With that point in mind, here are 8 steps to follow to help you make sure your social profiles are something you’d be okay with a hiring manager seeing.
1. Delete your own questionable posts
While you might cut loose on the internet a bit more than you would in real life, hiring managers who look at social media will still view what you post online as a reflection of who you are. If you’re frequently rude, profane, or offensive, those attributes can be turn-offs. If you frequently make posts loaded with typos or misspellings, it makes you look less intelligent and less qualified for most jobs. If you go on frequent political rants, you might mark yourself as someone who can’t respect the opinions of others. There are many, many ways that you can make yourself look like a less desirable applicant on social media, so go through your recent posts and delete anything that muddies the image you want to present.
2. Delete your questionable photos
Cleaning up your Facebook photos should be a pretty easy step in this process. Anything that makes you look professional or respectable is good. Photos with family and friends are great; professional headshots are even better. However, if you still have pictures lingering online from your drunken college escapades, now is the time to scrub them. Photos that depict drinking, drug use, illegal activities, and anything overtly sexual don’t play well with employers.
3. Untag yourself in undesirable photos that you didn’t post
If you’re lucky, any racy photos of you will be the ones you posted. If your friend uploaded and tagged you in something less-than-professional, though, you might have a bit more trouble getting rid of it. In a pinch, Facebook will let you untag yourself from any photos you don’t want to have popping up on your profile. This action should keep any potential employers from seeing those pictures—though it’s still not a bad idea to ask your friend to take down any offending images.
4. Choose a professional photo as your profile picture
We made mention of professional headshots above. If you’ve got one, make it your profile picture. This statement applies to any social media account, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or even Twitter. The professional picture sends an almost unconscious signal to a prospective employer that you are hirable material.
5. Don’t talk about work on social media
While you scour your social feeds for profanity or offensive jokes, also look out for any posts where you talked about work. Bringing your professional life into the realm of social media is a sticky situation, whether you’re complaining about a boss or talking about a project you’re working on. In the first scenario, you’re badmouthing an employer—an obvious way to get your resume tossed in the trash, if and when hiring managers see it. In the second scenario, you could be divulging trade secrets or other details that are supposed to remain more or less confidential. In either case, you can expect prospective employers to be a bit wary about hiring someone who talks about work online, so set a rule for yourself to avoid those kinds of discussions.
6. Update your info on Facebook
Believe it or not, there is now a possibility that you’ve had a Facebook for longer than a decade. Because of how long some people go without updating their information, there’s a possibility that certain parts of your profile—like your “About Me” and “Favorite Quotes” sections—may have gone five or six years without an update. Most of the people who know you personally have probably been friends with you on Facebook for long enough that they never look at these inner sanctums of your profile. However, you never know what a prospective employer might look at, so go to your homepage (click your name in the top left corner of the page, right below the Facebook logo) and then click “Update Info.” You will be able to review your profile, delete anything that is no longer true (or has become downright embarrassing), and present a more accurate compendium of who you are.
7. Update your LinkedIn
A lot of employers will look at LinkedIt, but it’s rarer for most people—especially younger professionals—to spend much time on the network. As a result, it’s easy to let your LinkedIn profile fall by the wayside: an old, out-of-date photo; an online resume that hasn’t been updated in years; a dozen or two of pending connections; etc. Count on your employer checking out your LinkedIn and spend an hour or so getting it as up to date as possible. Even if you don’t use LinkedIn much, it can still be your professional face online.
8. Keep your Twitter feed interesting:
Facebook and LinkedIn are the top two social networks of interest for most employers. However, if a hiring manager does find and scroll through your Twitter, you want it to look like the feed of an interesting, thoughtful, professional, and ambitious person. Specifically, you can use your Twitter to look like someone who is genuinely interested in the minutia of their field. Post articles associated with your job industry, follow accounts of other professionals and figures in the field, or even post your own articles or thoughts on hot topics that pertain to the career path you want to take. Even if your prospective employer doesn’t see your Twitter—and even if you don’t get the job—getting involved in the online conversation about your industry can only help you in the long run.
Not all employers are going to look at social media before making a hiring decision. Others will only give cursory views to your accounts. However, there is always the chance that a hiring manager will spend a fair amount of time researching you online, and if that happens, you want to be ready. The eight steps provided above will help you fix up your internet presence to the point where it’s almost as impressive as your resume.
About the author: Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com.
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