Before we go through the dos and don’ts, let’s look at your social media activity from the perspective of a potential company’s hiring team. When companies are looking at candidates -- and there are plenty of them these days -- they have the "best of the best" to choose from. Characteristics such as integrity, honesty, responsibility, and maturity are the buzzwords most Human Resource managers would use to describe their ideal candidate. When you begin to look at all of your Internet activity -- and I mean ALL of it -- are those ideals reflected in what you post, write, join, and retweet?
Let’s start with the go-to spot for most companies these days, your Facebook page. Here are some things to consider:
When others tag you in their photos, are those images public for all to see? If there is an old frat party picture where you are looking smashing and smashed at the Pi Beta Phi Spring formal, you need to go to your page settings, and make sure you check the box in your security settings so that when others tag you in photos, only YOU can see those photos. A potential employer can go to your page, but can’t see your friend’s pages, and won’t be able to view that picture unless you allow them to. The same goes for that bikini shot from Spring Break. Yes, you look hot, but no, a company doesn’t need to see that.
If you are on Twitter, things like foul language, retweeting posts from Kanye West with 10 models in a hot tub, or even better, posting a picture of YOU with 10 models in a hot tub, are not good ideas. Remember, every single Tweet lives somewhere on that page.
If you are ready to grow up and get a real job, or you are already a grown up and just need a job, consider going through every single Tweet, and deleting those you think may not present you in the best light. If you are a big football fan, or love the ASPCA (ok, that’s me with the latter) that shows you have hobbies and interests, or in my case enjoy doing volunteer work. That kind of thing is a good side of you to represent. Then take a look at who YOU FOLLOW. That is also public information, and whom you follow says a lot about you.
Take a good look at who your friends are; who you have as friends -- even if you don’t know them -- could reflect badly on you, and employers only need one good reason to not ask you in for a face-to-face interview. You have already shown your face, and God forbid any other parts of yourself on the Internet, so take stock in everything -- your connections to others included.
Finally, do a basic Google, Yahoo, and Bing search on yourself; that is the best way to find pictures, videos, or blog posts that may contain your name or your image. I know that in this day and age you are encouraged to post a comment (and of course, feel free to comment here, my skin is thick) but if you have made some mean comments, or inappropriate comments on sites you frequent, you may consider finding a way to get those off the web.
The Internet is a wonderful thing, but it’s also your life out there, and potential employers are going to look into it deeply.