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Over 70% of us have a social media profile, resulting in us putting a lot of content out into the world about our lives, perhaps more than we realise or intend to. 


The number of employers using social media to screen candidates has increased 500% over the last decade. Yes you read that right, 500 percent!


CareerBuilder conducted a survey last year and found that 60% of employers use social media channels to screen potential candidates, and of these employers, 44% said they do it to check whether a job seeker is presenting themselves ‘professionally’. 49% of hiring managers who screen candidates said they’ve found information that caused them not to hire a candidate on social media, with provocative or inappropriate photographs, video or information accounting to 46% of cases. 


While the ethics of this are being discussed in HR departments (by law, your potential employer isn’t allowed to find out about your religion, your gender, your sexuality and your age without your permission – and it’s illegal for them to make a hiring decisions based on these factors), employers who do screen the social media accounts of potential recruits argue that these are public platforms, with information candidates have themselves placed in the public domain. 


As a job seeker who uses social media, the idea that you should be careful about what you post and share online, just in case a future or current employer sees it, isn't a new one. We all know that  it’s probably best to avoid posting photos of yourself from an extravagant Saturday night out.


But going beyond the basics, employers are naturally curious to see more of the ‘real you’, which they are more likely to get on social media than from your CV alone. While LinkedIn is often used to cross-check the information you put on your CV, Facebook is checked to gain insights into your personality. If the encroachment this poses on your privacy is making you nervous, you’re not alone. But remember, if you post anything publicly, anybody can legally access it. If you’re not comfortable with potential employers having access to any part of your private life, make sure your privacy settings are up to scratch. This guide takes you through all the steps.


On the other hand, if you're ready to embrace the opportunities to build your personal brand on social media, then it’s time to have a thorough spring clean of ALL your content - Yes from the very beginning - ensuring the basics are in place. This includes:

  • No inappropriate photos or posts
  • No references to excessive alcohol consumption and no references to drug use
  • No bad mouthing previous employers
  • Limiting typos and grammatical errors

After a spring clean, it’s time to start putting positive content out there. Linkedin is a great place to start engaging with brands and companies you’d like to work for. By actively participating on social media, you can join the trending conversations on topics that relate to your chosen industry. This all helps to create a positive impression of you online to potential employers, which is particularly important if you’re wanting to enter or working in the digital industries. 


Moving forwards, rather than viewing social media as a one time deal, think of it as an extension of your professional image that needs regular maintenance and care. Employers are regularly reviewing both candidates and current employees, for various reasons. By taking control of your own digital footprint, you'll be setting yourself up for career success (and not a super awkward Instagram confrontation).


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