Arguably, the most fascinating Washington hearings lately have been the Mark Zuckerberg grillings by Congress. They revealed key takeaways for social media platforms and ISPs regarding privacy protections, but more valuable on a personal level were the reminders that once you are online, you are EVERYWHERE! There may be consequences for what we post every day and particularly for those in the job market.
Mr. Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, mentioned that the average person uses eight social media platforms. These equate to eight opportunities for potential employers to evaluate your organizational fit. That’s right; according to a 2017 CareerBuilder study, 54% of employers decided not to hire somebody based on their social media profiles, while 57% wouldn’t hire if they couldn’t find you online. So, what’s a person to do? If you are a young person with lots of social media history but not a lot of work experience, here are some ways to improve your digital brand and increase your chances of getting hired.
1. Ask Yourself: Would I Hire Me?
Perhaps your last second of growing up happens with that “oh, sh%*!” moment when you suspect the smirking hiring manager has just stumbled on your Instagram photos of Jäger Bombing at Nina’s, your “new” cluttered apartment, and the fish gape selfies, some with clothing optional. As you gather your things to leave, you kick yourself for not remembering that 70% of employers DO screen job applicants on social media before hiring them. Time to put yourself in the place of a boss and ask yourself: based on an online survey of my social media, would I feel confident hiring the person that represents me? If your answer is “no,” then it’s time to:
2. Clean Up Your Digital Act!
The first step is to Google yourself. You may be surprised at what you find. Delete any public photos and ask to be removed from unauthorized listings, some of which might imply a driving or criminal record. Do the same with other web browsers, or hire a reputation service to do this for you.
Next, conduct a survey of your online brand on your social media accounts. As you review and edit, don’t forget to delete undesirable email or Twitter addresses (#SXY4UBoss) that can be linked to your social media usernames. Untag photos you wish to make private. You can switch to “public view” on FB to see what other people see on your page. If the content doesn’t reflect the new you, then change your privacy settings and delete, untag, or change the privacy settings on pictures and posts so the Public can’t see them. Check your Instagram settings and actively manage your account, since visibility is automatically set to Public unless you change it. Delete social media accounts no longer in use.
Finally, know that what you put in writing on the internet can get you fired. If you think your political, racial, or biased opinions are being expressed only to a trusted friend, or that somehow those sexy pictures are for your girlfriend’s eyes only, think again. Once digitized and shared, you can’t take them back and may even find that they’ve ended up in a Twitter or broadcast feed. You may have gone viral – whether you wanted to or not!
3. Engage and Add Value
Finally, social media is an amazing tool for connecting and sharing content that celebrates and represents your authentic self. All those great photos of you hugging the pups at Humane Society fundraisers? This exposure will boost your brand equity, so share away. Are you a mountain climber, hiker, kayaker, or world traveler? These character-building activities tell a recruiter a lot about the kind of personality and strengths that fit well in an organization. Don’t neglect to build and share your professional brand. Create a LinkedIn account, which acts as your online resume. Keep it updated with job histories, accomplishments, and relevant shared content, and posts.
Yes, this is a country where free speech reigns. But whether you like it or not, you are going to be judged by what others see and read. You might think that the pseudo-racist joke or photo of you pinching some girl’s bum is personal and not anyone’s business, but unless you have a hard and fast lock on your friends’ sharing (FB Timeline Review), your content is out there. To a potential employer, this reflects negatively on you even if you are not “really” that racist or sexist person in real life.
Now more than ever, companies are looking for candidates who are diverse and reflect appropriate cultural and ethical values. That’s why employers “lurk” online so they can get a peek into who you are as a person before they ask you to join their team. Now, more than ever, is the time clean up your digital social media content and share your best personal brand story.