How to clean up your online persona (without deleting all your pics)

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You have probably heard that employers look at job applicants online and that it's important to keep your social media accounts professional.

But, how stressed should you really be about your online presence?

Recruiters and companies definitely look at online profiles. They often check LinkedIn first, and then places like Twitter and Facebook.

The main reason they do this is not to try and dig up dirt about you, but rather to figure out if you're going to be a good fit for their team.

What all do employers look at? Are they on Twitter? Instagram? Pinterest?

Employers are likely to look at all of your primary social media accounts. In fact, they may even Google search your name, email and usernames.

If you use the same username on various profiles, they will be able to find everything from your social media accounts to your comments on YouTube and advice on Quora. Keeping negative comments and angry remarks to yourself is therefore essential-- no matter how much you hate that politician's interview.

Ideally we want to be hired as ourselves. Is it really unreasonable to have a few crazy party pics online?

Most companies want to control their online image. Especially when it comes to employees that are higher up in the chain, they want to make sure that their company always looks good.

If your Facebook is covered in photos with red Solo cups, the recruiter might think that you won't take the job seriously. After all, if you can't take your social media seriously, you might have a hard time understanding what is and is not appropriate to share with others.

Is it possible to clean up your online presence without deleting all your pictures and posts?

Yes, it is. Here's the key: change your sharing settings.

On Facebook you can go through all of your images and posts, and you can opt to share them only with a specific group. For instance, instead of making them public, you can choose to share with "friends only."

If you have a lot of online content and limited time, it might be best to change your global share settings to make everything "friends only." While this may result in a fairly blank public profile, it is better to have an empty Facebook page than a very negative one.

Another option may be to change your profile name, take on a pseudonym, and then start a more professional profile with your real name. However, this will only be somewhat effective since your face will still be tagged in photos with your friends and, with a little searching, a potential employer will still be able to find your pseudonym profile.

What about accounts that don't have sharing settings?

Not all social media allows you to change your sharing settings.

For example, while you can choose to "protect my tweets" and make future Twitter posts visible only to followers, this option will not apply retroactively. Past embarrassing or unprofessional tweets will need to be found and deleted.

On Instagram, you can make your account a "Private Account," but any posts that are shared on other public sites (such as a public Twitter account) will still be visible to the public.

To make sure everything is squeaky clean, search for yourself online as though you were an employer and delete or privatize anything negative that comes up.

Are built-in privacy controls effective enough?

It depends. For example, a company may have already crawled your profile and stored the information. In that case, even if you delete posts or change your sharing settings now, they will still be able dig up your history.

Also, if someone in the company's office is your friend or follower on social media, then they will have access to your complete profile. Nevertheless, most of the time, for most companies just altering your sharing preferences works.

What if someone else posted inappropriate content about you?

The best thing to do is to contact the person and respectfully ask them to remove the post or picture.

With Facebook, you can always report a post. If it breaks the site's guidelines, Facebook should take it down.


How do I know if a post or picture really needs to be deleted?

You don't get to decide whether or not an employer will take your online image into account. And there is no way to know for sure what they consider to be acceptable.

A beer with dinner may or may not be considered okay. The same goes for political posts. While you may think online political activism makes you seem engaged and savvy, others might judge you as having a negative attitude.

All else aside, here are the top 4 positive and negative things for an employer to find about you online:


Top 4 negative things to show online:

  • Any illegal activity.
    For example, posts or photos of you smoking marijuana or underage drinking.
  • Anything that breaks the guidelines of social networks.
    For example, raunchy or sexual photos. Such posts show a lack of judgment in knowing what is appropriate to put online, leading the recruiter to doubt your ability to have good judgment in your job.
  • Excessive party pictures.
    If it looks like you spend most of your time outside work partying, the recruiter may conclude that that you are lazy or not multi-dimensional enough for the job. Too much partying can also indicate immaturity.
  • Negative or hateful comments.
    Try to keep things to constructive criticism. Being able to have a cordial conversation online shows a great deal of maturity.

Top 4 positive things to show online:

  • Anything related to your work or job.
    For example, projects or presentations that demonstrate interest in your career even outside of required work hours.
  • A happy social life.
    Pictures of friends and family can help make you out to be a pleasant, friendly person and a good team player.
  • Leadership in communities and groups.
    You can show leadership by discussing relevant topics online in an interesting and constructive way, or by having your name on websites that showcase your community activism.
  • An up-to-date CV.
    Whether on LinkedIn or elsewhere, an online CV can help to remind the recruiter of your qualifications and increase their confidence in you.

Written by JobTeaser

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