We’ve all had our weak moments on the internet—especially on social media—and it’s no secret that those moments can impact an employer’s hiring decision. You could be the top candidate for a position, but with one major slip on social media, you could quickly fall out of the race.
Though some see this as a breach of privacy, it’s important to remember that the internet is anything but private. What you post online is a publicly available representation of you and, once you’re hired, of the company you work for. And in an age in which just about any business and its employees are easily found on Google or LinkedIn, companies are putting more emphasis than ever on who they select to represent their brand.
So what do you do, short of deleting your social media profiles entirely, if you’re embarking on a job search but need to tidy up your online presence? Or if you’re already employed and want to ensure your personal brand remains untarnished? Try these tips to get started; not only will they help you polish up your current appearance, they’ll allow you to more effectively monitor it in the future.
Knowing what’s out there is important, but life is too busy to regularly Google yourself. Instead, try using Google Alerts, which allows you to set up a notification for any word or phrase. Any time a new entry with that word or phrase appears on Google, you’ll be notified. In this case, set up a Google Alert with your name (in quotation marks, such as “John Doe,” to ensure Google searches for your first and last name together rather than as separate keywords) and choose how often you’d like to receive these notifications: as it happens, once per day, once per week, etc.
This is good not only for monitoring your reputation, but—if applicable—to ensure your published work is appearing in search engines. If not, it may be time to look into making your content more SEO-optimized; publishing content in your industry is a great way to assert yourself as a thought leader, but it’s useless if nobody can find it.
Facebook has a number of helpful privacy settings, but unfortunately, many are unaware of them and don’t put them to good use. The first step to maintaining a career-friendly presence on Facebook is to search through your timeline for anything an employer may not appreciate and remove it.
Whether the content in question is a questionable picture or an unprofessional rant, you should be able to find it (even if it’s buried in weeks of posts). Search your timeline using your activity log and pull up posts from your activity log according to keyword; if that doesn’t work, you can always take the long route and download your entire Facebook archive to sift through.
Once your profile is cleaned up, ensure that it stays that way in the future. Navigate to Timeline and Tagging in your privacy settings and adjust the settings there to adjust who can post to your wall, determine what they can post, and put all tagged pictures and statuses through an approval process before granting them visibility on your page. This is an excellent tool if you trust yourself to handle your page professionally but worry about your friends posting anything private or inappropriate.
Twitter is such a clipped, rapidly-updated form of social media that it can be tempting to think that questionable tweet you sent a few months ago won’t easily be found. However, tweets are searchable, and it’s best to ensure there’s nothing there you don’t want seen by a potential employer; even if that something is very difficult to dig up.
If you have some tweets you’d like to delete and have a general idea of what they were about, try using advanced search to find them. This allows you to search for certain tweets, keywords, and conversations, which can make locating and removing specific tweets a much faster process. If you want to be exceptionally thorough, however, you can download your twitter archive here and manually sift through it for anything you may want to delete.
Again, this method can also be used for positive brand marketing. If you’d like to celebrate the anniversary of a pivotal point in your career, for example, you can find any tweets you may have sent out announcing that turning point and quote them to your followers to commemorate the day.
Ultimately, a strong online presence is a key factor in your job search and your career. For more information on utilizing social media in your career, take a look at our social media series!