Times have changed.  The introduction of social media, chatroom, subreddits, etc have resulted in a huge chunk of our lives displayed online (publicly or through usernames). Though convenient to find a trending place to eat, communicating with friends and family, or shopping from the convenience of your home, it can also be problematic when it comes time to look for a job.

The ability to hide behind our keyboards has resulted in many instances of people sticking their foot in their mouth on social media, and sabotaging a job offer.

Just because social media is there, some elect to voice their every thought and emotion, no matter how confrontational. Actions and words have consequences. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity because you didn’t think before you hit send. Here is how to clean up your social media before looking for a job.

Google yourself

The first thing is to Google the name you plan to use professionally and see what shows up. If your name is one-of-a-kind, things about you might dominate the results. Google is often a short-cut for curious recruiters to check up on your social media, so it is good to know what they might find. Are there any old accounts you may have forgotten?  We recommend getting rid of anything that no longer represents your professional brand – aim to clean up the first results page in Google (as a minimum).

It might take Google’s algorithm a few days to update the results, so do not forget to check back after removing content to see what is currently showing. No matter how diligent you are in the cleanup, unfortunately, some posts are there for infinity.

Make your accounts private

Now that you see what is found on Google, you should think about making your account(s) private if possible.  Many popular social media sites have that option, so only the people you choose can see the content you share. This includes Facebook and Instagram. If you do not want to censor yourself online, making your accounts private is a safe choice. This allows you to speak your mind and represent yourself however you want without putting your reputation (or any potential job offers) at risk.

Delete questionable photos and posts

If making your accounts private is not an option (such as on Twitter) or not something you want to do, you can opt for a social media scrub instead. This process can be a little more intensive and involves checking your accounts for content that a Hiring Manager might consider offensive and removing it.

Search for offensive words or phrases you might have used, grumpy rants or polarizing political views. If that sounds tedious, there are some handy tools that can speed up this process.

Remove any content that could be scandalous or inflammatory, or simply paints you in a less than flattering light. It is up to you how safe you want to play it. When in doubt, you are probably better off saving your crazier antics or opinions for more private channels.

Deactivate accounts you don’t use

Do you have an old MySpace account or an old Twitter account that has been dormant for the better part of a decade? If they are no longer relevant to your personal brand and you have not kept up with them, there is no point in risking an employer finding them and judging you based on them. At the very least ensure that they are not linked to your professional name. An outdated account can indicate a lack of attention to detail.

Choose a current profile photo

If you choose to keep active social media profiles linked with your professional name, choose presentable, up-to-date profile photos. While it is preferred to have a professional headshot on LinkedIn, on other platforms a clear photo of you, preferably looking like an approachable person, is ideal. Consider replacing any images that might make a potential employer feel awkward. Also, make sure it is a recent photo as you want employers to recognize you if they meet you in person!

Update your headlines

Choose a meaningful description of yourself rather than using a song lyric. Other than LinkedIn, your profile description does not have to be completely focused on your career, though sparing a line or two to what you do doesn’t hurt! Hobbies, interests, and insights about you round out your profile and give potential employers a picture of who you are and whether you would fit right into their workplace.

Treat others as you want to be treated

Last but certainly not least, do to others what you would have them do to you. You have heard this since you were young so put it to good use, especially on the internet.  Thumper said “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.   If a social media conversation gets out of hand, though it can be hard, take a step back and withdraw yourself from the situation. Your reputation will thank you.

Are your social media profiles sparkling clean and ready to show off your best self to potential employers?

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