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How Social Media Could Harm Your Job Hunt

One of the main ways companies use social media in the hiring process is to get more information about (or screen) potential candidates.

Depending on your privacy settings, a quick search of your name in any social network you use could be enough to give them full access to all of your publicly available content.

Recruiters and hiring managers do this – it’s not an urban myth!

That’s great if all your posted content happens to be about how dedicated an employee you are, how much you love to work and how highly skilled you happen to be. But is it? I don’t think so.

All of your publicly accessible posts and photos could be considered as they try to assess your attitude – badmouthing employers, offensive language and general bad manners are not likely to help.

But I’m not even saying that what you post has to be all that bad to have an impact.

One of the main reasons an employer might check out your social media profile would be to suss out your likelihood of fitting in with company culture.

While you know fine well that your attitudes in and out of work can vary dramatically, suddenly they’ve got a window into your personal life on which they could judge your suitability for their work environment.

Unfair as that might be, don’t give them reasons not to give you a chance. There are two main ways to tackle this – edit your visible content or have your privacy settings protect it.

Editing Your Content

This is arguably the more extreme option. Because, unless your profiles happen to be full of genuinely offensive content, there’s not really a need to censor yourself in this way.

You are absolutely entitled to your personal life and your opinions.

If you do decide to take this route, take each of your social media accounts at a time and go back through your posting history. Delete anything that you think might harm your chances if seen by an employer.

A good test for this (although a little dated!) is, would you be embarrassed to see this photo or see yourself quoted as saying this on the front page of a national newspaper?

The time most people would choose this option is when having a publicly viewable profile could be of benefit to their job hunt.

LinkedIn is a good example of this – to have the greatest impact on your job hunt, people you don’t currently know have to be able to search for you and view your profile on this social network.

Changing Your Privacy Settings

The less drastic option, that still allows you to display all of your past social media content as well as to continue posting as you wish, is to adapt your security settings.

All main social media platforms have various levels of privacy. These will typically dictate what can be seen by someone who isn’t a direct connection with you on these sites.

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Once you think you’ve reviewed and adapted your privacy settings, the most important thing to do it double check.

To do this, log out of all your social networks and search each one for your name to see what is accessible. If you can things at this point, so can everybody else.

A good example of this is that you might think your Facebook profile is private but non-friends may still be able to see all of your old profile photos. This is the sort of thing that a logged-out search will show you.

Of course, this option only works if you are careful about who accept connection-requests from. As soon as someone is a direct connection, they can generally see everything.

If this is your chosen route, you might like to keep a close eye on who you connect with.

Other Things to Consider


This is typically where anyone searching for you will start, so you should do the same.

Use Google (or any other search engine of your choice) and search your name, or your name and location. If you find something that you’d rather someone else didn’t, now’s your chance to take action.

Again, we’re not saying you have to change or pretend you’re someone that you’re not – you just have to be aware of the sort of things that could harm your chances of getting a job and limit the opportunity that someone else has to see it.

The Other Side of the Coin

Finding something unsavoury is bad for your chances but a potential employer finding nothing, doesn’t improve your chances.

This is why it can be particularly useful to have a ‘professional’ Twitter account and a LinkedIn account that is solely for professional networking.

Maintaining a positive social media presence can be a great boost to a well crafted application. Well thought out and considered input can really help you and this is especially true when you’re trying to prove you understand a new area or industry.

If someone searches your profiles, take the opportunity to leave them with a positive view.

Finding evidence of someone that is hardworking, well informed and committed to their goals is a powerful message – and that is a great online reputation to have.

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