We Are Social’s 2017 Global Digital Overview estimates that there are 2.7 billion active social media users globally, a trend that has increased year-on-year. It’s no surprise then that businesses, particularly recruiters are increasingly turning their attention to social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn to investigate potential employees before they hire them.
Not only are employers now using search engines such as Google to conduct background checks on applicants, but they may also request a LinkedIn profile along with a CV. Businesses might also hire the services of screening companies to conduct thorough background checks, which will often involve delving into your social media life.
This is why we recommend, before submitting your CV to employers, that you conduct a background check on all of your existing and old or unused profiles. You can do this by searching your own name in Google to find out what Google is publishing in their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).
We’d recommend that you search in a new incognito window, which represents how the search results would look for someone searching a term for the first time. If you’re browsing in Google Chrome, you’ll find this in the top right of your browsing window by clicking the three vertical dots (hamburger icon) and clicking new incognito window (Ctrl+Shift+N).
Privacy doesn’t necessarily mean private
When you sign up to social media channels, it’s important to really investigate what information will be shared without your consent. Although you may think your profile is initially private, Facebook still allows strangers to see your tagged and posted photos as well as your friends. Furthermore, your photos won’t necessarily appear in chronological order, meaning that old/forgotten photos may be the first that an employer sees.
It is also important to look beyond Facebook and LinkedIn. For example, if you are a regular Instagrammer and your account isn’t hidden, there are multiple sites that can display your Instagram profile image for anyone to see.
Your Twitter account can also be scrutinized. You can choose to keep your Tweets public or protect them in your privacy settings, but this doesn’t mean past tweets will no longer appear. Google will not only show your unattended Google+ profile, but also your YouTube account, meaning that you should review your likes and channel subscriptions for anything controversial.
Even profiles you might not use anymore or forgot you made, such as Foursquare or Soundcloud, can be found within the Google search results. Also, if the searcher is particularly persistent, profiles from the depths of the Internet can be unearthed, such as your old Myspace account.
Understand what privacy settings actually mean
It’s crucial that you keep up-to-date with privacy settings across all platforms and also keep in mind that they can change regularly on certain social media sites. Facebook does offer multiple levels of privacy, but you have to manually alter these yourself, don’t assume that your profile is automatically made private.
It’s also best to make sure that your profiles are unsearchable. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest all offer options to make your profile private or unsearchable, which is the best option while you are job hunting.
However, certain profiles should be made easy to find. A fully optimised LinkedIn profile can stand you in good stead and even serve as an expanded CV. LinkedIn grades profiles based on the amount of information you provide and the number of connections you have. At the very least you should aim for ‘Expert’ status, but by connecting with at least 50 individuals you can reach ‘All Star’.
View yourself online as though you were an employer
Once you’ve taken care of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it would be wise to conduct a thorough check through the Google search results for your own name. Make sure you go beyond your page 2 search results as well the images and news sections to find any other potentially damaging information.
Some people can feel sentimental about taking down certain aspects of a profile, but this attachment has the potential to make or break your image with employers. Don’t hesitate to deactivate old or unused accounts and even delete individuals if you feel they could hinder your job search.
Appearance on social media
Also, make sure to delete any posts or photos that are inappropriate and can’t be hidden under a privacy setting. You may also want to untag pictures that aren’t flattering or contain any questionable activity. If you’re particularly worried about your profiles or SERPs, why not ask a friend if you can search for yourself on their computer, to get a better idea of how you appear to someone else.