Last year, 54% of hiring managers elected not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles. But how do you make sure you’re part of the 46%?
The worlds of social media and careers are more intertwined than ever – whether you use social media to find a job, your boss is keeping tabs on what you’re up to outside of work or potential employers browse through your profiles before deciding whether to hire you.
And it’s the third area which we’ll be looking at today.
According to a 2017 report, 70% of employers use social media to screen potential candidates before deciding whether to hire them, which is a 10% increase from last year and a massive 60% increase from 2006. And they’re not just checking out your holiday pics.
Though it may seem like a cursory glance at your Facebook page might seem like enough to ward off peeping employers, it pays to properly go through all of your online profiles with a toothpick. But that’s easier said than done.
Let’s go through some handy tips and techniques that will leave your digital footprint squeaky clean without taking up all of your waking hours.
The first port of call for your social media cleanup should be the privacy settings on Facebook.
Whilst at first glance it may seem like a pretty all-encompassing page to ensure you retain your privacy, you’ll have to scour a few other nooks and crannies of Facebook to have peace of mind. But let’s start here.
You’ll find your privacy settings (on desktop) by clicking the arrow in the top-right corner of the screen, and then Settings. From there you’ll see the Privacy option in the left-hand menu.
Facebook is constantly introducing new features – and the good news is that in recent years they have given you much more control over who sees your posts.
It used to be that you had to go through every single post to adjust the settings, but nowadays that can be done in a single click.
The wisest thing to do when preparing your profile for a potential employer is to simply limit your posts – both past and future – so that only your friends can see them. Make sure only ‘Friends’ can see your future posts and then click ‘Limit Past Posts’ to revert any old public posts to friends only.
But posts on your timeline are just one small part of your total Facebook activity.
Click ‘Use Activity Log’ and then ‘Activity Log’ to review all of your recent actions on the platforms, and whether they were public or not. This will include comments on page posts, new pages you’ve recently liked, and, well, just about everything.
Whilst I wouldn’t recommend going through every single action you’ve ever done on Facebook, you should use this as more of a guide for future posts so you can be aware of who can see all of your hilarious comments beneath news articles.
Now head back to Privacy Settings, and this time navigate down to ‘Public Posts’ on the left-hand menu. Here you’ll be able to allow only friends to follow you and also limit the way that any person on Facebook can both see and engage with your public posts.
However, the most useful feature here is the ability to view your public timeline – which is exactly the view your prospective employer will have of your Facebook profile if they choose to view it.
Here, you can fine-tune the changes you’ve already made to make sure you’re presenting yourself as professionally as possible to any peeping toms.
The final thing is to remember that people can always see your current profile picture and cover photo – so it would be wise to change these to sensible ones (for now) rather than anything that could potentially reflect badly on you.
Twitter is a different beast than Facebook.
Whilst your Facebook profile is mostly private by default, it’s extremely rare to have a private account with protected tweets on Twitter, with one piece of research revealing that 90% of all accounts on the site are fully public for anyone to view at their will.
That makes a whole lot of sense, with public discussions on Twitter being one of the features that define the platform. On the flip-side, this does make it even more difficult to audit your Twitter account in the same way as Facebook, and it’s a platform where some high-profile people have been caught out on over the years.
Whilst 20-year-old Scottish MP Mhairi Black’s old tweets were mostly immature, harmless tweets that were pretty atypical of a 14-year-old (see below), therefore largely escaping the ire of the general public, others haven’t been so lucky.
Premier League footballer Andre Gray received a four-match ban in 2016 – for homophobic tweets he had sent out in 2012. Although this is an extreme example, it just goes to show the extent of our digital footprint, and the necessary precautions we should take to prevent it from damaging our professional careers.
By logging into your Twitter account, going to Settings, and then ‘Privacy and safety’ you will be able to see the options you have for limiting your audience on this social network.
As you can see, it’s not nearly as far-reaching as Facebook’s settings, and for this article, the only relevant setting is the very first one: Tweet privacy.
This automatically sets your account to private and protects your past and future tweets, but it’s perhaps not an ideal option for people who still want to use the platform as normal.
It’s perhaps the ‘nuclear option’ for anyone with worries about what they tweeted years ago, but this might be best used as a temporary option whilst your job hunt and clean up your Twitter.
If you don’t have a huge catalog of tweets and want to quickly browse/delete any that might not be deemed so professional, you would be best off using an external tool such as Tweet Deleter to easily get rid of multiple tweets at the click of a button.
It’s pretty self-explanatory to use, so head over there if you want to set about deleting your tweets.
Unless you’re a high profile celebrity, it’s pretty unlikely that anybody is going to spend hours and hours going through every tweet you’ve ever posted, so be sensible and thorough but don’t spend every waking hour cleaning it up. It’s just not necessary.
LinkedIn is an interesting one, as although it is generally the most-vetted social network by prospective employers, it’s also the one which has the least chance of having questionable old content hanging around on there.
It’s a train of thought which is supported by this piece of research, which reveals that 64% of employers view a candidate’s LinkedIn profile as part of the recruitment process – making it the most popular social media platform that employers check.
So in this case, we should be using our LinkedIn audit as a chance to show off your positives & display your professional credentials rather than hiding away old tweets and Facebook posts.
I could write a whole other article on how to fill out your LinkedIn profile, so when you’ve logged-in you should simply follow their internal wizard to make sure your profile is 100% complete and filled out with education, experience, skills and everything in between.
When you navigate to LinkedIn’s privacy settings, you should go the opposite way to other social networks and make everything as public as possible.
Let employers see what you’re doing and let them contact you easily. They have introduced some new features quite recently to make yourself even more approachable to recruiters – so you’re in luck!
Whilst you’re going through the list of privacy settings on LinkedIn, remember to make yourself as visible as possible, I’m going to pick out one of those new features: ‘Let recruiters know you’re open to opportunities’.
Make sure the ‘Yes’ option is selected, and then click ‘Update career interests’.
Here you’ll find some invaluable tools for ensuring maximum discoverability of your profile.
You can add a note to recruiters to let them know what type of work you’re looking for, add in potential job titles, locations, types of jobs (full-time, part-time, freelance, etc.) and even the industry and size of the company you would be interested in.
Not only does this ensure that recruiters can find you more easily on the platform, but it will also mean that you’re less likely to be offered irrelevant jobs in faraway places.
I should know – I was once approached by a recruiter on there for a job as a sales advisor in Walsall – a tiny and not-so-nice town in England. I’ve never worked in sales and never intend to, and when they asked if I wanted to relocate from Barcelona to Walsall you can probably guess what my answer was! (Sorry Walsall – you’re alright really).
Almost 7 times more employers vet a candidate’s social media profiles than they did 10 years ago, and it has become an essential part of the recruitment process.
However, in some of the examples highlighted above, I have shown how even politicians and professional footballers have been caught out and punished further down the line for not adequately cleaning up their social media profiles.
The thing is with social media, you don’t necessarily have to write anything offensive on Facebook or Twitter over the years for employers to take note.
It could just be immature posts, a poor choice of words, or an ill-conceived online spat that you might have been dragged into.
You never quite know which employers will penalize you for past indiscretions, so the best option is to follow these steps and take every precaution to ensure your dream job opportunity isn’t taken away from you.