Before Vicki Morris was the CEO of Face to Face Marketing, she worked for another company as their social media and PR manager. Morris was responsible for interviewing and hiring new employees to join the company’s social team. She found one candidate that felt like she would be a promising, based on her resume.
A few days before the interview, Morris decided to look up the applicant on Facebook and Instagram.
“She had a huge following, which I thought would be an asset for the position,” Morris said.
As Morris began looking at the candidate’s posts, she found several nude photos of the potential hire from a planned photo shoot. She also noticed profanity used in the captions. While certain body parts had been blocked out in the photos, Morris realized that the candidate did not have an image that would be a fit to represent the family-friendly business.
“Our social media posts often highlighted team members, so we could not risk a potential client finding this information on social platforms about one of our employees," Morris says. “That would be a potentially huge credibility hit to the company.”
In 2018, a survey from CareerBuilder revealed that seven in 10 employers research job candidates via their social media platforms. More than half of these employers have also found content on these accounts that prevented them from hiring the candidate.
What can candidates applying for jobs do to clean up their social accounts? Quickly tackle these areas first so your online brand is reflected in the best possible light.
1. Put yourself in their shoes.
Put yourself into a potential employer’s shoes when posting on social media platforms. What would they think if they saw you getting into arguments with other users on Twitter or blogging about how your boss is the worst on Tumblr? It’s time to put a cap on negative online rants. Think before you post and imagine how a future employer might perceive this content out of context. You may even consider KonMari-ing certain accounts and mass deleting old posts that are no longer representative of the person you are today.
2. Change your privacy settings.
One of the fastest ways to clean up your social accounts according to Laura Handrick, Senior Careers and Workplace Analyst at Fit Small Business, is to change who has access to your accounts. Ideally, everyone should not be able to access your photos and posts.
“Ask yourself: what kind of social media account settings can I change that will limit the general public from viewing content and photos on my account?,” Handrick says.
3. Hit refresh on profile photos, background photos and descriptions.
Are you half naked in your Instagram profile photo? Is your background banner photo on Facebook taken at a party? Does your Twitter bio include risqué song lyrics or vulgar words? Handrick advises quickly overhauling all of these potential liabilities on your social accounts.
The simplest way to switch everything out is to make your replacement photos benign photos. For example, Handrick says you can use images with you with family members, pets or taken on vacation.
“It’s likely that a hiring manager will take only a quick glance at these images, rather than looking for and scrolling through all your posts going back to your college partying days,” Handrick says.
4. Make 30-year social media posting decisions.
What does this mean? Morris says to ask yourself if what you post today on social accounts is something you’ll be proud of if you saw it 30 years later. If yes, go for it. If no, it’s not worth posting.
Morris also notes that it’s very possible that controversial social media posts, if not deleted or secured through privacy settings, may be brought up during a job interview. If this happens, Morris advises that candidates do not lie about what they have posted in the past. Instead, be honest and acknowledge that you did share this content. Then, tell the interviewer what you’re doing (or have already done) to clean up the pages. This shows you’re being proactive about your social footprint and are working to establish good character on and offline.