As the internet and social media grow increasingly important, particularly in business, employers are using the internet more and more to research job candidates. A recent survey showed that 39% of hiring managers used social media to screen applicants, and 43% of those found content that led them to decide against hiring a specific candidate. Don't be one of those candidates — before you apply for a job, manage your online presence by following these tips.
1. Google yourself
Or Bing. Or Altavista. Or whatever floats your boat. Do a search for your name and make sure there’s no vile content about you out there on the web. Find an embarrassing message board post you made years ago? A tweet about your latest wild exploits? A photo you'd die before your grandma saw? Take it down, or get in contact with whoever published the content.
2. Censor Twitter
If you have a Twitter account, go through your tweets to see if there’s anything you wouldn't want a potential employer to see. Rants about your boss, boasts about how “wasted” you were last Saturday, anything that slightly resembles Anthony Weiner or certain footballers, or even cases of terrible spelling or grammar need to be taken down immediately. When in doubt, change your Twitter privacy settings to "protected."
3. Check your Facebook privacy settings
Odds are your Facebook isn't quite as private as you think it is. Go to your profile, click the button, and click "View As…" to see how you look to the public. Use your common sense to clean it up.
4. Sort out your Linkedin profile
If you're looking for a job and don't have Linkedin set up, do so now. Some recruiters and employers are beginning to place even more importance on a high quality Linkedin profile than on a high quality resume. If you already have Linkedin, go back and review your profile. Ideally, you should be consistently maintaining your Linkedin so that a sudden flurry of activity doesn't alert your coworkers that you're looking for a new job. Make sure your experience is up to date, your information is complete, and you're conveying yourself as someone you would want to employ.
5. Register a professional email address
As Lisa Johnson suggested, if you're emailing your CV from firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com... Do I even need to explain? Please, please, email us from some variation on firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Connect with the company
Whether you're applying through a recruitment agency or directly to a company, get connected to their social networks. Follow their company account on Twitter, “like” their Facebook page, and follow their Linkedin company page. It will take you a minute to do but could significantly impress the people who may hire you.
7. Think through all of your social media accounts
Go through any social media site you've shared content on in the past few years and review those accounts. Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin are obvious, but don't forget about YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit...gee, for all I know, you're still on Friendster and MySpace. Even that LiveJournal or Xanga journal you kept ten years ago can be found. Make sure it's appropriate, hidden, or deleted. If there's a common username you use, NameChk is a handy tool for finding out where you're registered.
8. Beware of associated usernames
You may think that just because you contributed to an embarrassing site under the username "sexybaby123" no one will be able to associate it with you, but be careful. There's a good chance you've written something once upon a time that links your username to your full name, and clever internet users will be able to put two and two together, searching for your full name, seeing one post with your "secret" username, and then finding everything else that's ever been posted under that pseudonym.
9. In the words of Gandalf the Grey, "Keep it secret. Keep it safe."
Really, the bottom line is that you're never safe. You've heard it time and time again, but it's true: nothing you post on the internet is truly private, so don't be careless with what you share. Do what you can to clean up your current online presence, but for anyone looking for a successful career, it's essential to always be exceedingly careful on the web. 19% of hiring managers chose an applicant based on positive information they found on social media, so give yourself an impressive online presence and be part of that statistic!