Prepping Your Social Media Accounts for Your Job Search

By: Lauren Mineau

More and more often, companies are checking more than a potential employee’s work history and education. There’s often a check of their social media channels and sometimes what is found could cost someone a potential opportunity.

In a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder.com, of the 2,300 hiring managers surveyed 70 percent said they screen a candidate’s social media channels. This is an increase of 10 percent from 2016. More than half of respondents said they found something that caused them to reconsider hiring someone.

While your profiles are an expression of yourself, they are public and companies must often consider things they might find in a preliminary check as a potential liability if they were to hire you. It’s something we see frequently in the media today. Recently, the Walt Disney Company cut ties with “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn after old tweets containing inflammatory and inappropriate comments toward children resurfaced.

What turns employers off? The largest offenders were posting provocative or inappropriate images or videos (39 percent), information about drinking or doing drugs (38 percent), discriminatory comments regarding race, gender or religion (32 percent) and distasteful comments about a previous employer (30 percent). Other red flags include lying about qualifications, links to criminal behavior, inappropriate screen names, oversharing and lying about an absence.

In addition to searching Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and any other social network, employers also often do a quick Google search of someone’s name. 69 percent of companies reported doing so in 2017, up from 59 percent previously.

So, what can you do to make sure your online presence helps you instead of hurts you?

Common sense is the key factor here. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t post it. Consider reevaluating your privacy settings to ensure that someone who isn’t connected with you will only see the basics. Facebook has a nifty feature that allows you to view your profile as a specific person, including a public onlooker, in order to see what they see.

For sites like Instagram and Twitter, you can make your page as private so outsiders can only see your username, bio and a profile picture. If you’re looking for even more privacy, consider going by your first and middle name or other appropriate variation that lets certain people know it’s you, but not everyone.

However, depending on your field, letting recruiters and HR reps see your page can be helpful. For example, if you’re showcasing your visually-based work on Instagram let it be known. If you blog about a topic or just want your writing examples to be seen, keep that public.

While employers have to disclose a drug test or traditional background check, a scan of your social media is something that explicit permission isn’t needed to do. The services often used to do background checks look for criminal history, education history, military service, credit reports and bankruptcies, often don’t check social media or web presence.  So, someone at your potential new workplace would likely look for you manually which leaves more room for dirt to be dug up.

You can also consider using a site like BrandYourself.com, which will run an analysis of your pages and give you a score. The site runs on artificial intelligence which flags potentially problematic images or words.

An active but thoughtful online presence can go a long way as well.  Sharing thoughtful articles and genuine commentary on relevant issues to your industry can make you stand out – in a good way. In fact, more than half of employers surveyed found that being a total ghost online makes them less likely to contact someone.

Like it or not, social media is a part of our world. But just like the words and actions we choose in “real life” they can both help us and hurt us. Be smart about what you’re putting online and you’ll be in the clear. If you have any hesitation about it being inappropriate, it probably is.