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Social Media for Job Hunters – Is Your Privacy at Risk?


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Social Media for Job Hunters – Is Your Privacy at Risk?

Social Media is increasingly being used as a recruitment tool by employers. Turning to sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, recruiters seek out ideal candidates and vet job applicants. Discreet background checks are made easy, with social media profiles often giving insight into a job applicant’s reputation, professional history, personality, social behaviour and recent activity.

Although job hunters can strategically use social media to find employment, there is an obvious downside: personal privacy risk. Social Media changes the job hunters’ status from “hunter” to “hunted”. So how can you use social media to find employment and protect your privacy? Begin by first understanding the risks, then follow our 7 point checklist.

Be Aware of Privacy Risks

Creating a public profile on the Internet must be done carefully. Carelessness and limited understanding can lead to simple mistakes that leave you open to two kinds of privacy risk:

Risk #1 – Mixing Business with Pleasure

Most people use social networks for fun and pleasure, interacting with friends and family. When you begin building your business campaign, it’s important you don’t mix the two activities. Don’t forget almost anybody can see what you do online. Inappropriate photos and controversial comments can instantly tarnish your credibility, ruining your employment prospects and even costing you your job.

Risk #2 – Cyber Crime

Often overlooked as a serious threat, most people think “it’ll never happen to me”. Cyber Crime includes identity theft, stalking, fraud and phishing (when hackers steal your usernames, passwords and credit card details).

Protecting Your Social Media Privacy – 7 Point Checklist

Having acknowledged the inherent risks, you are better equipped to build a career-boosting social media presence without endangering your privacy. The following checklist will help mitigate the risks and protect your privacy online:


  1. Lock Down Your Privacy Settings. Every social media platform has privacy settings. Some are more comprehensive than others. In general, you can control who sees your profile and how much information you make public. For each platform you use, be sure you are intimately familiar with its privacy settings and functions. Use strict settings to keep your personal life (including status updates, friends lists and photos) hidden from business contacts.
  2. Cleanse Your History. Even though you have locked down your privacy settings, you may need to remove traces of your personal information from friends’ pages. For example, you may be tagged in a friend’s photo on Facebook or involved in controversial Twitter chat. Cleanse your history by untagging yourself from friends’ photos, removing old connections and deleting your comments from friends’ walls.
  3. Protect Your Friends. Most social networks display a full list of contacts (or friends) on your public profile. For job hunting purposes, this works to your advantage, facilitating career networking and professional recommendations. On the other hand, a full list of contacts gives cyber criminals the perfect opportunity to invade your network. Slander, fraud and stalking are made easier when a criminal knows your most important contacts! The message here is to keep your list of contacts private where possible. This is especially true for friends and family on your personal pages.
  4. Use Separate Channels for Work and Personal Life. For example, use Facebook for friends and family and LinkedIn for professional business networking. Separating social media channels in this way reduces the likelihood of accidentally posting personal information into your business space and vice versa. It also helps keep your business and personal contacts separate.
  5. Connect with Caution. Don’t connect with people just to build an impressive professional network. When inviting a new person into your network, you are effectively requesting to join theirs. In all cases the person should either already know you (even if only your name) or you should be introduced by a mutual acquaintance. Approaching people as a complete stranger is more likely to damage your reputation than build your network. Likewise, accepting complete strangers into your network opens both you and your contacts to unnecessary privacy risk.
  6. Conduct Regular Privacy Checks. Make it a priority to double-check your privacy settings on a regular basis. Privacy policies can change without notice, so you need to remain vigilant. It’s also a good idea to use Google to search your full name on a regular basis. Monitor how much information about you becomes publicly available.
  7. Watch What You Say. No matter how strict your privacy settings, a careless tweet or status update can spoil your best efforts. Follow this list of Do’s and Don’ts for what to share when you’re using social media to find a job.
  • DO use tags and keywords in your comments to indicate you are seeking employment in your industry.
  • DO offer insightful comments on industry related news, blog posts and articles.
  • DO write about your experience in your field.
  • DO engage in professional conversation with industry peers.
  • DO facilitate professional networking amongst your own contacts by recommending and introducing people you know.
  • DON’T say you are depressed or desperate for a job.
  • DON’T say you were fired or lost your job.
  • DON’T make negative comments about a former employer.
  • DON’T make negative comments about any person.
  • DON’T offer your opinion on politics, religion or people.
  • DON’T say you hate your job.
  • DON’T say where you live or mention your current location.

Job Hunting Safely

Take time to manage your online privacy carefully. Save yourself harm and embarrassment – keep drunken photos and relationship stories separate from your bosses and prospective employers. With good privacy management, social media gives you the perfect platform to showcase your abilities to recruiters. You can author a blog, build a LinkedIn profile and stream Twitter posts. All of these things will help you build your own professional brand and progress your career.

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

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