Social media is a great way to stay in touch with people you know, but may not be able to see as often as you’d like to in order to stay close. For many people, it is an essential tool for building and maintaining relationships, especially during this pandemic. Sometimes, however, social media can be used by employers to screen you as a candidate. Remember that once you upload something to social media, it’s out there for the whole world to see, and most people don’t have the same kind of context that your close friends have in order to understand the nature of what you post. According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, in 2018, 70% of employers used social media to screen candidates, and this percentage is likely to increase as use of social media grows. There are a few things that employers view as red flags when looking at the social media profile of a potential employee, and a number of steps you can take to prepare your social media to be subject to the scrutiny of employers.
A quick first step that you can take to make sure you aren’t projecting a persona that could get you into trouble is Googling yourself. A simple Google search can give you the general information someone might find. At the very least, employees will Google your name and find out if there are any immediate red flags. When you Google yourself, be sure to do an incognito search, because otherwise, Google will automatically filter your results based on your previous searches or log in services. Try to put yourself in the mindset of someone whose first impression of you is based on these search results; imagine you are Googling a celebrity you’ve never heard of before. If any information is found, make sure it is positive, accurate, and relevant, and if it isn’t, you should start making an effort to improve your online presence.
One important step to take is separating personal and professional accounts. It is always a good idea to make a private account with which you can share your opinions, problems, feelings, and other personal concerns with people who are close to you. By doing this, you can create a space which you share only with people who know and understand you. Be sure to monitor the exposure you are allowing these accounts to have. You should keep the circle of followers small and trustworthy; only let someone follow the account if you feel that they need to see what you post and you want to interact with them. However, you should avoid posting these types of personal things for the general public to see. Your professional, public account could showcase updates in your life, such as business updates, personal interests, and accomplishments, but these updates should not be embellished with personal or political opinions at all. On both accounts, but especially on a professional account, don’t post anything that could get you into trouble, such as vulgar language, negative posts about your work, photos of partying or illegal activity, or relationship issues. Treat your professional account like an interview; don’t post anything you wouldn’t say in an interview by a potential employer.
One of the most important things to remember is that you must clean up your entire virtual persona. For some, this may require some deep digging. Scroll through every social media account you’ve ever had, and go all the way back to the beginning to make sure there are no controversial posts you may have forgotten about. Make sure all the information is accurate and up-to-date, and finally, go through posts in which you are tagged by other accounts. If you find any that may get you into some kind of trouble or cast you in a negative light, either ask the person to delete the post, or remove the tag.This may take a while, but, because of COVID-19, there is no better time than now; you likely have a lot more time on your hands, and, once this is over, your social media will be ready to be judged by potential employers.