Social media has taken off in a big way over the last decade and everyone and anyone has an online presence in some form or another. Social media makes it easier than ever to look at an individual’s lifestyle and see elements of their personality before meeting them or having any contact. It is no surprise then that employers and recruiters use social media to vet potential members of staff.

Social media has become yet another way for recruiters and employers to assess the true value of a candidate. There are hundreds of social media websites and most people have signed up to at least two or three over their digital lifetime, leaving traces of their life all over the internet. Without using the correct privacy tools and visibility restrictions, your social profile is a very public shop window for all to see.

There are a huge number of benefits to social media as it allows us to build interpersonal relationships with people all over the world without geographical boundaries. At the same time, it allows you to collect and build a picture of your own life online. This picture can be a positive image or a negative one.

The risks

Employers research and evaluate candidates through their digital footprints. This means they are able to judge and eliminate potential employees without having to meet them or without having any direct contact. This can be disastrous for job seekers who have pictures of their drunken Saturday night antics splashed all over the internet.

Keeping your personal life and online profile on lockdown is key to making sure that prospective employers don’t cast judgment on you unfairly. A recent survey found that more than half of UK employers (a massive 53%) use social networking websites to research their job candidates. A further 12%  plan to start using social networking websites for screening with the most popular search engines being Facebook, Linkedin, blogs and Twitter.

It might not come as a surprise that as employers dig for digital dirt as they certainly find it. Some 43% of employers confessed they found content on a social networking site that caused them not to hire someone. The top reasons being that they discovered candidates lied about their qualifications, showed poor communication skills, made discriminatory comments or posted comments about them drinking and drug-taking. While it may seem to you that recreational substance use is not a reason not to employ someone, they are in most definitely acts that businesses do not want their employees to publicly condone.

Preventing disaster

Your prospective employer will almost certainly run your name through Google so why not make sure you do the same and see exactly what information comes up? A simple Google search could reveal what you thought might be intimate or funny conversations between you and your friends or photos from another lifetime. You should also check other search engines too such as Bing and Yahoo. Another tip is to use variations of your name and amend searches to show purely pictures, videos, news or anything else that could be associated with your online personal brand. If you have a common name, add your current city or hometown to the search to see what comes up.


Have a clear-out

Have a spring clean and tidy up your old online profiles as well as the ones you currently use. Go through your profiles and delete any old photos, comments or links which may be incriminating to potential employers. If you at all question the content, it is very likely not something you want your boss to see.

This might also mean cutting ties with any questionable or unreliable people, groups or associations that are not fitting with your professional reputation or could be seen as a conflict of interest.

Manipulate your profile

One controversial issue with social media is that individuals can say anything and be anyone they want to on the web. You can create fake profiles, pretending to be a different age, sex, race, religion or any identity altogether.   

Whilst this typically has negative connotations, you can use this to your advantage and make sure you come across as the person you want to be and the person a potential employer will want to hire. Of course, be true to yourself, otherwise, come the interview stage, you may be questioned about things that are untrue or made-up. 

Use privacy settings

Facebook is one of the first places people turn to when checking a person out. The good news is that you have the power to decide exactly what those who aren’t your friends, and even those who are, can see.

You can change your privacy settings to make sure that you are happy with what level of information is given. The same applies to Twitter and you can have your tweets set to private so that those who aren’t following you can’t even see them.

This is certainly worthwhile, not just for the protection of your personal data, but to ensure nothing gets in the way of you and your next job – especially not something as small as a foolishly written status update. However, you never know who your potential employer is friends and this can lead to them having access to private information that you have as “friends only.”