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How To Tidy Up Your Digital Footprint Before Your First Job Search

You can’t go back in time and not post those embarrassing photos, but you can erase your mistakes before your future boss Googles you.

How To Tidy Up Your Digital Footprint Before Your First Job Search
[Photo: Omkar Patyane/Pexels]

When I graduated from college in 2000, social media didn’t really exist, and managers didn’t do Google background checks. I didn’t realize how easy I had it compared to today’s graduates.

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“It isn’t at all uncommon for hiring managers to look at Facebook or Instagram to see what type of person the candidate is. You can gauge what someone’s like from an interview, but only to a certain extent,” says Callum Williams, a senior recruitment consultant at FRG Technology Consulting. “The attitude [the applicant] displays once they have the job could be entirely different, so social media can offer valuable insight at times.”

If you’re entering the workforce now, you were raised in an era where social media has been ubiquitous. Your posts from high school might come back to haunt you when a prospective employer searches your accounts.

Of course the best way to stop embarrassing posts from coming on to the radar of a prospective employer is not to post things that you wouldn’t want your boss to see in the first place. But if you’re reading this article, it’s clearly too late for that. So here are some steps you can take to reduce the chances that your past online activity and digital footprint will hurt your job prospects.

Make Your Social Media Accounts Private

As soon as you enter the professional realm, or enter the phase of looking for your first professional job, it’s time to privatize your social media profiles. Yes, it feels good to have hundreds or thousands of followers, even if you don’t know 90% of them, but is that dopamine high you get when you snag a new follower worth it if your public social media account stops you from getting a job?

Here’s how to make your Facebook profile private, make your Twitter profile private, and make your Instagram profile private.

Review Your Timelines

Of course, there are times when it’s beneficial to have public social media profiles when hunting for a job. This is especially true if you’re looking for a job in the media, where your social media profile can serve as an addendum to your resume.

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But even if this is the case, you’ll still want to scan through all your social media posts and remove any photos or comments that could cast you in a negative light. Such posts include anything that makes you look petulant, nasty, or immature. Obviously get rid of “funny”/potentially embarrassing photos, and comments that could cause offense. As far as posts about politics go, it’s okay to stand by your political views, just don’t leave any posts up that demonize the other side simply because they disagree with your point of view.

Control Tagging

Of course, sometimes you can appear on social media despite not posting the content yourself. This often happens when our friends or family tag us in content they post. These tags with our names can often show up in Google searches, especially Google Image searches, as most tags are applied to photos.

“Be conscious of the things you are tagged in,” warns Williams. “Friends have a habit of tagging you in pictures and videos that you would rather not share with the world. Ask them to remove the tag or remove it yourself.”

Besides asking friends to untag you, most social media sites also give you the ability to disable other people from tagging you in the first place. Here’s how to control tagging on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Find And Close Any Old Social Media Accounts

When we think of managing our social media profiles, we generally think of the current big three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, chances are that many of us have digital footprints floating around online from other platforms that we’ve long since abandoned. I’m talking about old platforms like MySpace or Friendster or abandoned social media profiles on services like Google+, or from that time we created a Flickr account just to post our pics from that wild trip to Cancun.

You might not even remember how many abandoned social media accounts you have. To find them, Google your name to see what comes up (check past the first page of results) or try a service like Deseat.me, which aims to help you find all your forgotten online accounts. Any accounts you do find, either make them private or close them down completely.

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Not sure if a certain post might hurt your job prospects?

“If in doubt about a historical social media post, consider the first impression it would give a stranger,” says Williams, “and be mindful that the standard of a hiring manager is higher than that.”

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