Whether for business or pleasure, social media usage is on the rise. We’ve come a long way from the MySpace days, and now a social media presence is an expectation rather than a hobby. We’ve previously stressed how vital a strong LinkedIn existence is, but even your personal accounts across the web are relevant to your job search.

Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and even Facebook make up your digital footprint, and this is something all job seekers must be aware of. A 2018 CareerBuilder survey found that 70% of employers use social media sites to vet candidates, and that number has surely risen since then.

“70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates (on par with last year), while 7% plan to start… And that review matters: Of those that do social research, 57% have found content that caused them not to hire candidates.” –CareerBuilder

Make sure your profiles are helping rather than hurting your job aspirations. Keep your social media profiles safe for work by following these strategies!

Avoid anything unprofessional

Some of the basics should be fairly obvious. You might not be actively trying to generate “content” on every platform, but be wary of what you post. Even on accounts that are completely personal, you don’t want to share anything offensive, overly risque, divisive, or overly argumentative.

Your personal pages are your personal pages, but employers are wary about hiring a candidate that might make them look bad down the road, and the previous study mentioned that over 50% of employers that have researched candidates’ social profiles found something that caused them to look elsewhere.

Google yourself

If you want to see what your potential employers can see, throw your name into Google, or your preferred search engine, and see what comes up. You can use Incognito mode or a different computer if you’re afraid of your regular system’s biases.

From there, you’ll be able to see how an outsider will view you. What pops up first? And is it flattering? By Googling yourself, you may find questionable profiles or posts you don’t even remember, and you can take necessary action. If nothing else, you can see which accounts need to be made private.

If you want to be really thorough, David Cotriss recommends setting up a Google alert on yourself to regulatory see if anything comes up.

“If you appear on an undesirable website, try reaching out to the webmaster to remove you. Ask people who have tagged you in inappropriate posts on social media to remove you as well. You can be sure employers will do a Google search on you, so why not be one step ahead?” –Michael Moran, recruiter

Look into privacy options

Every major social media platform has some sort of privacy settings, so you’ll want to learn what they are and curate them to your needs.

For example, if you only use Facebook to keep track of birthdays and keep up with what your high school friends are up to, it may not matter. But if you regularly post pictures of nights on the town, you may want to keep an eye on who can see that content.

It can be worth having both a private and public profile on the same site, depending on your needs. A public-facing Instagram and a personal one can have completely different content, and only the public one will be viewable to employers.

Keep an online presence

Even if you have a few less-than-professional things pop up during your self-scout, your first instinct shouldn’t be to put everything on private and delete every account. David Cotriss writes that 1-in-5 employers won’t hire a candidate that has zero online presence. This can make it seem like you have something to hide. Cotriss also says that deleting a profile won’t always hide all offending content, and employers may be able to see cached versions.

Instead, keep some accounts active and engaged. Make sure all of your contact information is up to date Keep your LinkedIn profile updated regularly, have nice conversations on Twitter, and keep telling your friends happy birthday on Facebook. You’ll be able to connect with people that can help you, and you’ll seem like a real person.

Engage carefully

“The good news is you can leverage social media to build your image as much as to wreck it.” –Jeff Lipschultz

Now that you’ve curated what you’ve already put into the digital world, make sure you continue good habits by making your engagements worthwhile. Alessandro Biascioli says to be choosey about your likes and follows, especially on public profiles. It’s not hard to see what posts you’ve liked and who you engage with. If you’re liking divisive content, you’ll scare employers aware, but if you’re engaging with professionally relevant content, this can be viewed as a plus.

Meanwhile, Alison Doyle says that you don’t need to connect with everyone. Quality is better than quantity, and you’ll be much more likely to find value or offer value to others in a more curated network.

“Put aside all the trash talking and trolling on Twitter and consider using it to your advantage. Look for your tribe on the site. Seek out trending topics that align with your skills and background. Then, weigh in with your comment, offering your unique perspective.” –Jack Kelly, Forbes

Wrap up

Social media is an endlessly valuable tool that needs to be used correctly. At its best, you’ll show off your personal brand and make valuable connections. At worst, you’ll frighten potential employers. Google yourself to see what employers can see, and clean up as necessary. Avoid posting anything vulgar or unprofessional and familiarize yourself with different platforms’ privacy options. Keep an online prescience, and make your engagements count!

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