Social media is a huge part of modern life. Yet it also comes with risks. Because social media allows us to give others a more extensive view into our personal lives than ever before. It also makes us more vulnerable to being judged based on an offhand comment or misstep.
Nowhere is the risk of a negative impact from social media higher than in hiring. Seventy-nine percent of employers state they’ve rejected a candidate due to something they found on the candidate’s social media profiles.
79% of employers have rejected a candidate because of information on social media profiles.
Do you have to quit social media entirely? Not necessarily. Here’s how to polish your social media profiles so they reflect the person you are today.
Dig Into the Past
Social media preserves the past, which can be interesting but also problematic. Old party photos from college or bad YouTube videos from high school may come back to haunt you in unpleasant ways.
Start by going through your social media history. Some sites, like Facebook, allow you to change the privacy settings on old posts en masse, so you can set your entire profile to be available to your friends only or only you.
If there are things you want to keep but don’t want the public to see, download an archive of your social media profile before you clean. With an archive available as a backup, you keep your old posts, but you can delete what’s online with impunity.
Finally, remember that “friends only” doesn’t mean “hidden.” Anyone with friend-level access to your social media can still access friends-only content — and anything they can access; they can show to anyone else.
Clean Your Comments History
Many people clean up their social media profiles by addressing old posts, but forget about past comments. Yet comments often provide evidence of how you react to others in real time, which makes them particularly interesting for employers.
Committing to a mindful commenting approach can help you in the future, but what about all the comments you’ve already left? While it’s unlikely employers will try to read every comment you’ve ever made, it can also be valuable to clean your history by addressing old comments yourself — before an employer gets a chance to judge them.
Some social media sites, like Facebook and YouTube, have built-in tools to help users delete their old comments — including Facebook “likes” on old posts and comments made on others’ social media. Use these tools to eliminate some of the more thoughtless moments from your social media past and move forward more mindfully.
The first stop for many employers curious about an applicant’s online footprint is Google, so running a Google search for your name is an essential part of the social media overhaul process.
Unlike your social media accounts, however, Google search results are more difficult for you to impact unless you have access to the source. A search result for your blog, for instance, is something you can impact more easily than a search result for a newspaper article that mentions you.
For untrue, inaccurate, or plagiarized information, consider contacting the owner of a web page to request the information be removed. In some cases, you may also be able to file a DMCA takedown notice.
Even after information is removed from the web, there may be a delay between the removal and Google and other search engines reflecting that removal in their search results. Remember to run searches periodically to see how information is being handled.
Ask for an Outside View
Finally, look at your social media from the point of view of a prospective employer. Many social media sites have settings that allow you to view your profile as a member of the general public. Turn on these filters and see what still shows to the world. You may also ask a friend or colleague to look at your social media and see what they think.
Don’t hesitate to ask for an outside professional perspective as well. For example, a staffing agency recruiter can view your social media profiles from the point of view of a hiring manager. By doing so, your recruiter can provide valuable advice on how to portray yourself in the best possible light.