5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Social Media Before Your Job Search


Question: I recently heard you say that employers look at a job candidate's social media posts. What if I've been careless -- even reckless -- online? Could that hurt me? How do I clean it up before they see it?

Answer: Yes. What you post online is visible to recruiters and hiring managers and they are likely considering your posts, photos and comments as part of their interviewing and hiring decisions.

Employers today are overwhelmed with responses for open positions. Because it is easy to send a cover letter and resume to job postings online (as compared to the days when you had to mail them, stamp and all), candidates are often less discerning about the positions for which they apply. This is causing recruiters to work harder to sift through resumes and applications for qualified candidates.

Social media gives the recruiter a quick way to learn more about candidates. When viewing a candidate's online profiles, the recruiter can see:

  • Are they truly passionate about what they claim to care about? Do they post a lot about their interests?
  • Do they use good judgment when posting and commenting? Or are they reckless about their posts, possibly causing harm or offense to others?
  • Do they promote the values that the recruiter's company cares about?
  • Do they use correct and accurate grammar and punctuation?
  • Are they posting images and sharing content that goes against the company's code of conduct?

If you haven't been mindful of how your social media posts, comments and images might be received by someone in a position of influence over your career, here are five tips for cleaning up what an employer can find online about you:

Do a Google Search.

Put your first and last name in quotes into the search bar on Google. Scan through the results (be sure to check the tabs marked news and images). Are all of the results about you? Does someone with your name make bad decisions online? Are there search results that could cast a negative impression on who you are and what you stand for?

Untag Yourself from Photos and Posts.

If a scan of your online profiles reveals you have been tagged or mentioned in posts or photos that are inappropriate, offensive or distasteful, remove your name from the tag.

If the image or comment is damaging, ask the person who originated the post to remove it. If they refuse, then at least untagging your name means you lessen the association.

Remove Posts and Comments.

If late at night, you posted a passionate rant to a news site's blog, but now see that it could be damaging to the impression someone will form of you, remove the comment.

Consider whether you need the public to know about your feelings on politics, world events and/or celebrities. Your thoughts and feelings matter, but posting them on a public site makes them part of your personal "marketing kit" and tells the story of who you are.

Post Content Consistent with What You Care About.

If you are passionate about process improvement, archery, serving veterans, animal rights, free speech or data mining, then post about those issues.

Use discretion when sharing overly personal information. Does the hiring manager who is looking for someone to lead their team need to know whether you voted Democrat or Republican? They should see that you are passionate about leadership, mentoring and inspiring others.

Ask for Forgiveness.

If your online posts are archived and can't be removed or untagged, then alert hiring managers that they might find content from your past that is unflattering.

Being proactive and offering an explanation ("In 2001, I was impacted by what happened in New York; therefore I lashed out online ...") may soothe concerns about how you would act today, if hired.

Every one of us can make mistakes or acts in ways we later regret. That's what makes us human. When it comes to social media, however, what happens on Facebook stays on Facebook and is visible to others (regardless of "privacy settings").

Consider your social media a public reflection of what you do and who you are. Strive for consistency, not perfection.

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