Creating a Squeaky Clean Social Media Profile

November 09, 2016

By Mandy Reinig

The job search process can be long and tedious. What many job seekers don’t realize is that it can also be an embarrassing and a humbling process, especially if they do not clean up their social media channels prior to their job search.

Currently, 43 percent of employers are using social media sites to make hiring decisions, and 51 percent of those who use social media sites found something that caused them to not hire someone. This included provocative photos; posts bad-mouthing their previous or current employer; and information or pictures about the candidates’ alcohol consumption and drug use. While it would seem like common sense not to post these items, you would be surprised how many people, and not just young people, post these items frequently without understanding the long-reaching consequences.

Let’s pretend you are one of these job seekers who has mistakenly posted something on a social media channel that you may not want a potential employer to see. How do you fix this problem? There are quite a few things you can do to enhance your social media profiles and maintain your personal privacy.

Step 1: Delete unnecessary images/posts from your social media channels.

If you don’t want to delete them, because they have some meaning to you and your friends, you can change their status to private or to just friends. Additionally, you can create special groups for just your friends or just family members, etc., on some social media channels and share photos with just select people.

Step 2: Update your privacy settings.

Make sure that the privacy settings for all your social media channels are not set to public for all your posts. This is what gets most people into trouble, when all their posts are set to public. When posts are set to public, they become searchable by Google and other search engines.

Step 3: Untag yourself from friends’ posts that portray you in an unflattering way

If a friend decides to post unflattering photos or posts, that is their business, but you don’t have to be tagged in them. By taking your name off of them, you are removing the ability for you to be able to found in public searches if the post went public.

Step 4: Google Yourself

Seriously! This is not a narcissistic thing, but a means of protecting yourself. There are two methods of Googling yourself. There is the normal Google search and now there is Google Social Search. Google Social Search allows you to search all of the most common social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You can search for your name, your handle, or a keyword. If you have not done this, I highly recommend that you try it. It will demonstrate to you which of your posts may still be public, among other things.

Remember the point of this exercise is not to take the fun out of social media but to remind yourself of the fact that first impressions do matter. What is the first impression you want to give to a potential employer? A drunken photo taken while vacationing with friends, or a conference post on what an amazing session you attended?

The choice is always yours, but if you take the above steps to create a squeaky clean social media profile, you will not need to worry about potential employers finding incriminating material about you out on social media.

Mandy Reinig is director of study away at Virginia Wesleyan College, and owner and founder of Mandy's Mashups, a small social media business geared towards international education.