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Job Searching? Clean Up Your Social Media Now

Keeping your personal and professional lives separate is becoming an impossible task, especially online. With social media so prevalent, it’s now easier than ever for employers to research job candidates online and find out more personal information than they ever wanted to know.

But do they? Yes. They do.

Take these statistics from CareerBuilder: 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Of those that do, 57% have found content that caused them not to hire a candidate. Content considered the most damaging? Provocative or inappropriate photographs, information related to drinking or using drugs, and bad-mouthing previous employers or coworkers top the list.

Given that a significant number of employers will be searching for and judging your every move online, you might decide it’s best just to shut down your social presence altogether. But—believe it or not—that could be your biggest mistake of all.  Nearly half of employers (47%) say that if they can’t find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview.

So what do you? Be strategic about your social media engagement.

Search (or Google) your name online regularly to see what information shows up.
These clues will lead you to the areas where you need to clean up your online presence. Comments that you made on a news story in 2008, fraternity party pictures, documents related to a previous job, your sister’s mug shot…whatever overlooked, long-forgotten pieces of info you spot could be the first things an employer sees when they search your name online. If the information is connected to an active account of yours—like photos from your Facebook page—they should eventually disappear if you remove them or you adjust your security settings to a more private setting. To get the most out of a Google self-search, follow these additional tips from the company review experts at kununu.

Give your LinkedIn extra love.
Among employers researching job candidates online, nearly 60% are looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job, 50% are interested in the candidate’s professional online persona, and 34% want to know what others are posting about the candidate. These reasons can all be satisfied by a well-tended LinkedIn presence. In fact, employers in all job sectors and 90% of recruiters using LinkedIn to vet job candidates. Consider making your LinkedIn profile public for easy access while tightening privacy and permissions on some of your more personal accounts like Facebook and Instagram. For tips on what (and what not) to include on your LinkedIn profile when searching for a job, read this post.

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
This golden rule applies to all forms of online communication no matter how private you think it is. Wherever and however you communicate, understand that everything can be captured and shared online whether you intended it to be made public or not. Never write anything on any social media you’d feel uncomfortable about an employer seeing. The same rule applies to the company you keep: Guilt by association can be your downfall. That includes retweets, comments others make on your posts, pictures and commentary others tag you in, and the type of content you “like.” For tips on how to best scrub your social media presence for your job search, consider this advice by Social Media Marketing Expert Terry Rice.

Your social presence can offer employers a great peek into who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and how you might fit their culture. Use it to your advantage by cleaning it up and putting your best face forward.