This blog, in a slightly different format, was originally posted on LocalWork.com.
According to a 2013 CareerBuilder.com survey, 39% of employers screen a job applicant’s social media sites. Of those, another 43% found something on Facebook, Twitter, etc., to cause them to not hire a candidate. Both of these figures are increases from the year before, and it is expected that the numbers are even higher today.
We can debate whether it is right, ethical, or legal for employers to consider our social media posts, but the fact is, they are.
Job seekers must manage their social media.
First, stop digging a hole. If you have made disparaging comments about your job, boss, or colleagues, if you brag about playing hooky, or if you post about your binge drinking, drug use, or sexual conquests – stop! It turns out, our mothers, and Thumper, are right. If you have ever posted anything like these, delete them, now.
Second, set your privacy settings where they make sense. My LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are open (I want to be found), while my Facebook is restricted to Friends/Family. However, I am fully aware that all it takes is for one Facebook friend to “share” a post to their feed and all of a sudden, it is out there.
Third, assess the damage. Search for your name, including variants (James and Jim) on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Then, set up a Google Alert for your own name.
Fourth, if there is anything potentially damaging to your online reputation, then bury it. Open new social media accounts; sign on to the message boards of your professional affiliations; start a blog. Post comments and content that support the brand reputation you want, and that set you up as a subject-matter expert for your position and career. Your goal is to have enough positive things about you online that the negatives are buried to the second or third page, or lower, on a search engine. The negative stuff might still be found, but hopefully there will be enough positives to minimize its impact.
Fifth, especially if you have a somewhat common name, create a card with your social media links that you can hand to potential employers, so that you are not mistaken for the similarly-named person who spends more time at Spring Break than in school. This assumes, of course, that you cleaned up your social media sites!
Success doesn’t come to you. You go get it.