Don’t Fear the Fail: Conduct a Social Media Reputation Audit Before Applying for a Job

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When you apply for a job, most employers will look at more than your resumé: They’re likely to scour the web for your name to see what else they can find out about you. According to a recent study, nearly half of all employers make a habit of checking applicants’ Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media profiles before inviting them to be interviewed. In some cases, that’s a good thing: 68 percent of employers have hired individuals specifically because of something they spotted in their profiles. If something in your profile hits a sour note, however, you could miss out on a job because of it.

Here’s how to audit your profiles and make sure that they make a great impression.

Check your privacy settings. The easiest way to ensure that potential employers don’t come across something they wouldn’t like is to limit their access to your information. Make sure that elements of your Facebook profile such as photos and Wall posts are limited to “friends” only, and you’ll have no need to worry about them finding any questionable photos, even if they exist. Likewise, if you prefer, you can lock your Twitter account so that it is visible only to people who are following you.

Clean up your profiles. If you don’t want to put your profiles on lockdown, however, you can use them to make a positive impression—just make sure that they represent a polished, professional image that will appeal to the employer you’re trying to impress. Make sure that any publicly available photos and posts are boss-friendly, keeping the photos of your family hike and filtering others to “friends only.” However, make sure that your profiles still give a sense of your personality: CareerBuilder found that 50 percent of employers hired employees after getting a positive impression from their social media profiles.

Google yourself to see what’s out there. Employers are likely to use Google to find out about you online. So, Google your full name (and location, if it’s a common name) to see what’s out there. Is there an old blog on LiveJournal you might want to take down, or an old MySpace page that makes you look immature? Remove these pages, or modify the privacy settings so they aren’t accessible to the general public.

Create a website with your name as the domain. If you want to give employers a sense of yourself as a professional, it helps to create a professional website, using your full name as a domain if it’s available. This site will likely come in at the top of the search results for your name, so make sure to include your online resumé, a photo, and any other information that would appeal to a potential employer.