Fix Your Social Media Before Looking for a Job

Most people use social media to interact with friends and family. You might connect with old classmates or former colleagues, and much of your communication on the various platforms is probably fairly innocuous.

Amidst your photos of vacations, fancy dinners, your children, and your pets, however, there may be ticking time bombs that keep you from getting hired. Sometimes it's not something obvious: Your job chances could be sunk by sharing the wrong opinion, something someone else said, or even a misinterpreted photo.

Before you start applying for jobs, it's important to scour your social media. Assume that potential employers will be looking at your entire digital presence, and that they may be looking for an excuse to not hire you.

Fix the obvious problems

Some social media shares are obviously red flags. Think pictures of you doing anything illegal, or images where you have over-indulged. In addition, take down any language that may be misconstrued. For example, your joke may not have had racist, sexist, or homophobic intentions, but if others might see it that way take it down.

Consider who you are

Many people share political or other potentially controversial opinions on social media. Most articles like this would tell you to take them down, but in reality, you should think about the type of person you are.

If you're left-leaning or right-leaning and would not want to work for someone who disagrees, then you might want to leave up posts sharing your views. This is an area where you should be very careful, though. Don't compromise your beliefs, but realize that sharing them may cost you opportunities.

Keep professional platforms professional

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are social platforms built around family and friends. That does not stop potential employers from seeing them, but the standards for posting are looser.

Microsoft's LinkedIn is a social media platform built around work. It's a professional platform where it's appropriate to share an article about having more efficient meetings, and not appropriate to share video of cats cuddling with puppies

Consider LinkedIn a sort of extended resume. Have you profile updated and only share things relevant to your profession.

Be your own critic

Every time you post something on social media, consider the possibility that potential employers may see it. Do an honest evaluation of whether posting a picture of yourself in a racy outfit or wearing a T-shirt with a questionable slogan is actually a good idea.

Be cautious. Remember that everything you post might be seen by anyone, even when a post is private. Don't let a dumb joke or a silly comment torpedo your chances of landing a job. If it's questionable how a post might be viewed, it's always better to just not post it.

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Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Facebook and Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.