Every savvy job seeker knows how important it is to maintain a professional, frequently updated profile on LinkedIn. After all, it’s the first place hiring managers go to learn more about you if your résumé has caught their eye. Social media in general can be useful for those looking to get hired – as well as for those doing the hiring. It can enhance your chances for getting the job of your dreams. But it can also wreck those chances if you’re not careful about what you post. According to a 2016 Recruiter Nation Report, 92% of recruiters use social media in evaluating candidates. And almost half of recruiters view photos of (too much) alcohol consumption negatively. In fact, seeing lots of photos of a given candidate drinking is a turnoff for 60% percent of recruiters. It’s not that they don’t think you shouldn’t be out there having fun. It’s that they’re apprehensive about your ability to uphold the values of their company and reflect its best image.
How to start cleaning up your online image
If you’re actively job searching, one of the first things you should do is spend some time searching your name to see what activity or internet history is associated with it. You might be surprised to discover the things that are out there, within easy reach of recruiters: controversial or even offensive images, photos showing the use of illegal substances, overtly sexual images… All these things can be damaging to your professional credibility. And remember that it’s not just about photos. Danica Kombol, president of the Everywhere Agency, a social media marketing company, tells the story of an outspoken applicant: “We’ve … decided not to extend the offer because of what we saw on a candidate’s social media profiles. A candidate we knew spent all her time bashing her current employer. Her lack of tact in expressing discontent with her bosses told us that she didn’t have the characteristics of being a team player.”
So do everything you can to log in to both your current and your old social media accounts and delete questionable photos, posts, and conversations before you start applying for jobs. Because if a hiring manager has to choose between you and a “cleaner” candidate, guess who’s going to win out?
Keep enjoying social media (but keep using good sense)
This article isn’t meant to scare you away from social media. In fact, it’s vital for job seekers to be active on social media. Because even if you haven’t sent your résumé to every company out there, it’s where 92% of recruiters are going to look for candidates – so they might find you! 87% are using LinkedIn, 55% are using Facebook, and 47% are using Twitter. A few are even using Snapchat, Vimeo, Tumblr, and Periscope.
So you’d best do a little housecleaning on those sites too, if you’re a user.
The best advice is to play it safe and set all your profiles to private. Take a few minutes to tighten up the privacy settings on all of your social media accounts. No matter how careful you are, comments can be taken out of context, or others can tag you in a photo without you knowing. Privacy settings, which have become safer and more reliable recently, can help you keep your personal and private lives separate.