This article was originally published HERE.
Everybody knows that potential employers are going to Google you. Pictures of you, drunk during the holidays and dancing on tables are not ideal for social sharing. And yet, every day millions post damaging and questionable material on social media that could ultimately hinder their career.
There are some obvious things that, if for whatever reason posted, must be scrubbed immediately from your profile; content that could be considered racist, sexist, lurid or defamatory. When it comes to photos, if you wouldn’t show them to your grandmother, they probably don’t belong on social media. What about the not so obvious things? What about politics? Controversial comedians? Personal gripes or rants? Don’t you have the right to put those things on social media without being penalised for it?
The short answer is YES, but there is a way for you to use “gray area” material to your advantage. Remember that potential employers are looking for the same things you are looking for when you review a company’s website or social media account. Corporate accounts offer a great window into an organisation’s corporate culture. What are the values they embody and how responsive are they to issues and concerns raised by consumers? Similarly, employers are interested in whether or not you would be a good fit, bring a fresh perspective, or flounder in the corporate climate. Issues such as these become doubly important if your role involves working with the public or you are client facing; whenever you are the face of the corporate brand.
Forbes reported that nearly a third of all employers say that looking at a candidate’s social media has positively impacted their hiring decisions. Employers say that looking at a person’s social media can help to understand them and gain useful insight into their personality. A candidate with gaps in their work experience might benefit from a timeline that reflects their commitment to family or the struggle of caring for an ailing parent. A timeline full of articles on politics and local issues shows civic engagement and an awareness of the way policy has practical effects. Even an Instagram account with group photos outside clubs and at restaurants could indicate that you are a person who is easy to get along with and values relationships.
The trick is to examine your social media accounts and find a central theme. What are you trying to say about you with your content? Taking a more focused approach to social media use is part of building your brand. When people google your name, do the results reflect the image you want the world (and employers) to have of you? If not, it’s time to start deleting.
Whether you are cleaning up your current accounts or starting fresh, make sure accounts like LinkedIn are searchable under your name and open to the public. Consider it your “business” account whose focus is to display your brand. It should indicate your employment history and educational background. Platforms like Facebook should be more than a billboard for your corporate image. Make sure your content tells a story about you as a person. Not all of your interests and values will be popular, but well written “rants” and opinions show that you are both reasonable and rational.
Making your social media presence work for you is more than just deleting questionable content. Building your audience and connecting with people and groups with similar aims will help to broaden your network and reveal opportunities for personal and professional growth.
But if all else fails, or you simply cannot be bothered, remember that there is no shame in setting all of your social media accounts to private. Having a scant or inaccessible social media presence is better than having a troublesome one. As the saying goes, it’s better to let people think you’re a fool than to open your mouth (or Twitter account) and prove it.