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Social Media Mistakes: Are You Ruining Your Job Prospects?

If you’re looking for employment, you should assume prospective employers will research your identity on the Internet. Recruiters often search the Internet to conduct background checks, uncovering information about a job candidate’s history, behaviour and personality profile. The most revealing source of such information is social media. Not only can recruiters read your personal profile, they may be able to view your personal conversations, your photos and even your geographical location on a Saturday night.

While social media is fun for interacting with friends and family, it’s ease of use means people quickly become flippant with the information they share with the world. An irreverent comment meant in jest, a drunken photo at a buck’s night, or a joking tease intended for a friend can all be taken out of context, misinterpreted and taint your reputation. The good news is you can continue to use social media for fun without ruining your jobs prospects. Just follow these simple guidelines.

Restrict Your Personal Profiles

Whether you use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or run your own personal blog, it’s important to keep your personal information inaccessible to strangers – and that includes recruiters.

  • Tighten privacy settings. Tighten your privacy settings to block strangers from seeing your personal information. If you use Facebook, be particularly cautious when using the “Friends of Friends” setting. It’s easy for your information to be made public via a friend’s public feed. Choose the “Friends Only” setting instead.
  • Use anonymous pen names. If you operate a personal blog, choose an anonymous pen name to avoid conflict with your career goals.
  • Turn off Geo-tracking. Avoid “checking in” to locations with your mobile phone or GPS using popular social media sites like FourSquare. Do you really want employers knowing where your favourite bar is?
  • Avoid social media games and applications. Games such as Farmville can often access your profile information. Some applications can even access the information of your friends and connections. It’s often difficult to know exactly how much of your personal information this ingenious software can harvest. To play it safe, avoid using 3rd party applications altogether.

Erase Your Digital Footprint

A quick way to assess your current digital footprint is to search for your name on Google or other search engine. What do you find? Does the search return out-dated conversations no longer congruent with your opinions? Do you see photos of old profile pictures and late night parties with friends? It can be difficult to completely remove snippets of historical data from cached Internet search results, but you can prevent strangers from reading more by taking these actions.


  • Delete old posts and profiles from discussion forums
  • Delete negative comments you may have made about work or other people
  • Delete opinions you may have expressed about politics, religion or other people
  • Delete photos you wouldn’t want your boss to see
  • Close or delete inactive social media accounts
  • Untag yourself from friends’ photo albums

Launch a New, Professional Public Presence

An effective way to improve your digital footprint is to launch an entirely new online presence. Begin by setting up brand new social media profiles, intentionally linked to your professional identity. Build a business-focused blog or portfolio to showcase your experience. Connect all your social media profiles to your blog.

Follow this advice and create comprehensive public profiles. Remain active in business-related public forums on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and search engine results will quickly reshuffle to accurately represent your new identity. When recruiters search for your name, they’ll find your squeaky-clean professional image; exactly what they want to see in an ideal job candidate.

Visit our Careers Resources section for articles related to your job search.

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