BlogThursday 28 May 2015

A no-bones approach to hiding social media skeletons from employers

Pre-social media, people used to talk about skeletons in the closet. These days, with Facebook used monthly by one in every six people on the planet, it’s more like skeletons dancing around on the street in a tutu singing One Direction songs: “… that’s the story of my life, da da da…”

But while that cross-eyed selfie you posted on Instagram after last Saturday night’s epic beer pong session might make your friends laugh, the consequences could be much more damaging if ogled by an employer of choice.

No bones about it, social media is now one of the main tools for businesses researching job candidates. A study conducted in the US just last year found a whopping 49 percent of employers use social networking sites to research potential employees, with another 12 percent planning to do so in the future. Of those that did use online profiling, 51 percent said they’d already chosen not to hire someone based on what they found.

“49 percent of employers use social networking sites to research potential employees, with another 12 percent planning to do so in the future.”

Crazy, hey? But before you sell your textbooks and tools and become a nomad wandering the earth like Kane from Kung Fu, there are some measures you can take to give your online presence a make-over and keep those social media skeletons from seeing the light of day.


Discover who you are:  This doesn’t mean enrol in a transcendental meditation course. Just search for yourself online. This is the first thing most employers do and will give you a big picture view of your online presence. Note down anything untoward and read on for tips on how to address it.

Do some housekeeping: It’s not that you can’t be yourself on social media, just be the most appropriate version of yourself!

Your profile pic is generally public-facing, so trade in that party shot for a more professional look. Your bio is available to all, but can still genuinely reflect your personality and interests, unless one of them is train surfing. Reassess the groups, individuals and causes you have ‘liked’ as these are all generally visible to the public. They can accumulate over the years, so maybe the Gnome Liberation Front doesn’t provide as much social kudos as it once did.

Look for images, posts and other uploads you think present a negative light to employers.  You don’t want to come across as angry or overly negative. Bad-mouthing past co-workers or bosses is a big no-no – delete these straight away and even apologise if it got out of hand.

Group it up: If you’re not acquainted with social media privacy settings, get ready to meet your new BFF. While Twitter is a public medium, and you want employers to see your full LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Instagram & Google+ allow you to closely control who accesses your content.

Create groups (and groups within those groups) of people you know and make sure you target your content appropriately. Use common sense. The inner circle will include those that love your nightly expletive-laden rants about the PM. The public-facing profile is more appropriate for that job in the public service you’re keen on.

Think before you post: British author Charles Leadbeater described privacy on the web best when he said: “You are what you share.” If you’ve gone to all the trouble of cleaning up your social media presence, you’ll want to be mindful of keeping it schmicko in the future.

Remember, at the end of the day, most of what you post can be shared and reposted. All images are just a right-click away from being copied by someone else. If you don’t want to take any chances, imagine you’re sending everything directly to your Nanna and you’ll be ok.

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