Five Steps To Clean Up Your Online Footprint

Adjusting Your Privacy Settings Might Not Be Enough

Oct 22, 2019
Management

Rachel LoockSMITH BRAIN TRUST – Resumes, cover letters and references are mainstays in the job hunting process. If you really want that position though, be prepared to add a social media cleanup to the list.

Rachel Loock, a career and leadership coach at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, says that candidates should operate under the assumption that employers and companies will take a look at your online presence. 

While many people opt to put their various accounts into private mode to prevent others from looking at their profile, Loock warns that doing so may not be enough. 

“I think it’s a common idea that if my settings are private I’ll be fine, but that’s not the case in this world,” she says. “The information is out there and once it is, it’s hard to pull it back. Be mindful of what you’re posting and use good judgment, particularly if you’re seeking a new job.”

Loock offers five suggestions.

Keep It Civil

According to Loock, potential red flags for employers involve anything that might reflect poor judgment. Racist, sexist, mean-spirited or derogatory comments about particular groups or individuals would fall under this category.

Watch Your Company

Loock also recommends being mindful of the company you keep. Despite your best efforts to maintain clean profiles, employers could form different perceptions of you based on how others appear in your photos or photos you are tagged in. 

“Don’t let people tag you without permission, make sure you have that ability unless you are absolutely sure of the good intentions of all of your friends and associates,” Loock says. “Have the ability to review everything you are tagged in so that you can remove a tag if something is inappropriate.”

Go Easy on the Politics

In addition, Loock suggests for the most part staying away from engaging in political debates on social media. While civil conversations are normally fine, Loock cautions that they can result in something that can be taken out of context by outsiders. 

“I think less discussion around politics is probably better,” Loock says. “It’s ultimately up to you to decide. But if you’re going to be representing a company, the company is going to want to feel good about how you’re representing yourself publicly.”

Shine on LinkedIn

Loock says recruiters generally target platforms like LinkedIn and sometimes Facebook. It is important for job seekers to have a professional headshot for their profile picture, especially on LinkedIn, Loock says. This tip is also important for job seekers because employers may look at your other profiles too if your name is linked to those accounts.

In terms of things employers like to see on social media, Loock recommends following certain companies in your industry, joining professional groups in that sector and sharing articles that pertain to your desired field.

Producing work-related content and tagging people you are connected with is another great way to establish your level of interest and knowledge in a specific area, Loock says. 

If in Doubt, Delete

For professionals ready to clean up their profiles though, Loock offers this final piece of advice.

“I would do a really careful sweep of everything you’ve posted and if there’s anything you think could be or is objectionable, then delete it,” Loock says. “If you have to question it, maybe you shouldn’t be posting it anyway.”

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Robert H. Smith School of Business
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University of Maryland
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