social media clean up

From profile picture etiquette to the tone of your Facebook statuses or tweets, your social media identity can drastically affect your hiring chances. Use the six tips below to clean up your social media identity and give yourself a better chance at getting that dream job.

A job interview is, in many ways, an audition or a performance where you are trying to convince an employer that you are the right person to play a specific role.

If your employers learn that you are not the person or professional you presented yourself as in the interview, they will likely remove you from the applicant pool and hire someone else. And these days, few things can destroy the illusion of a grand interview performance like a questionable social media presence. With that in mind, here are six clever ways that you can clean up your social profiles before your next interview—so that a stray Twitter post or Facebook photo doesn’t ruin your hiring prospects.

  1. Think about your profile picture

What’s the first thing an employer is going to see after they seek you out on Facebook, LinkedIn or some other social profile? Your profile picture.  As a result, the profile picture is arguably the most important part of your social media presence. It’s what makes a first impression for you, so using a picture of yourself that is clean, attractive, and professional is the best way to go if you expect employers to be looking.

Make sure that the picture IS of yourself, though: using photos of animals, movie or TV characters, or inanimate objects as your profile picture might seem funny, but comes across as unprofessional and is a huge faux pas for your personal branding. For the same reasons, you shouldn’t keep the default photo that might come with your profile when you sign up (the Twitter egg), and absolutely shouldn’t leave the profile picture slot blank. Out-of-focus, pixelated, or otherwise poor quality photos also don’t make good profile pictures if you are trying to make a professional impression.

  1. Look through your other photos

The profile picture is definitely the most important photo on your social media profile. However, sometimes, employers will look through your other photos to try to get a sense of who you are in real life. Needless to say, if most of your photos depict drinking, drug use, or partying, you are going to be flagged as someone with a lack of responsibility, and you won’t get hired.  Advice? Keep those photos for personal use, not public showcase.

  1. Clean up your statuses, posts, or tweets

If you use social media primarily to complain about work, politics, or other topics that frustrate you, then employers are going to perceive you as a negative person. Worse, they might see you as someone who—if they hire you—is going to be defacing their company brand online within a matter of months. Employers want upbeat, positive, problem-solving people—not whiners who air their grievances with the world on Facebook. Going through old statuses and tweets and deleting anything overly negative is a good way to improve your chances of “passing” an employer’s social media background check.  Of course, offensive or profane posts need to go, as well.

  1. Post positive and interesting content instead

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to cease your social media activity to appease employers. Indeed, as social media and the internet become more and more pivotal to marketing and branding, employers are actually looking for people who can establish a social media presence and build a following in a positive way. With that in mind, change up your posting habits to be more positive, interesting, and industry-focused instead of just using Facebook or Twitter to complain about your boss. Sharing links, following and interacting with individuals and companies in your chosen industry, and promoting articles you’ve written are all things you can do to make your social media presence an asset to employers rather than a liability.

  1. Match your LinkedIn page to your resume

Employers love LinkedIn. You may not use this professional social network as much as you use Facebook, but keeping it updated and active is an easy way to show prospective employers that you are really passionate about your industry and the people in it. With that in mind, always make sure that your LinkedIn page matches your resume. Your LinkedIn page is like your living, breathing online resume, so keeping it up-to-date with your latest accomplishments—or even using it to expand upon certain things you couldn’t fit onto your standard one-page CV—is a good way to maintain a professional online face.

  1. Google yourself

Googling yourself may seem like a narcissistic move, but it’s actually a good idea to see what kind of broader footprint you have left on the internet as a whole. If you have an uncommon name, simply typing your name into a Google search might suffice; if your name is more common, you might have to add the name of your town or state into the search. The goal is to find out if there is any embarrassing content about you online that you might have forgotten about. Old Myspace profiles or Friendster pages, forgotten blogs or YouTube videos, offensive message board posts: these are just a few of the pieces of internet dirt that you might excavate with a Google search. A nice spring cleaning session on these unflattering tidbits can give your online brand a nice boost.  You can request google to remove certain links/results by going here.

Going through your social profiles and cleaning up your online presence can take a long time. As you can see, there are a lot of different factors to consider here, complicated by the fact that no two employers go about “social media background checks” in the same way. With your employment opportunities at stake, though, it’s worth it to take a few hours out of your weekend, and make sure your Facebook profile, Twitter page, or old online identity isn’t getting you crossed off “potential hire” lists.

Guest Author Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries. 

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