When considering what to put online or on social media accounts, it’s always best to assume that what you are putting “out there” for others to see could eventually be found by anyone.  While not every employer will be savvy enough to dig up information from private accounts or usernames that aren’t a direct match for the given legal name, it’s also necessary to keep in mind that people can’t typically be 100% certain that they know where their future career will lead them.  And what goes online, stays there forever.

So how can you be sure that what is already out there or what you intend to put online or on social media accounts in the future is appropriate?  According to a research study done by CareerBuilder in 2018, here’s what employers are looking for and using to rule out candidates when screening their online presence:

  • provocative or inappropriate photos, videos, or language
  • discriminatory comments on race, gender, religion, etc.
  • information linking a candidate to criminal behavior
  • false information about candidate’s qualifications
  • “badmouthing” former employers, coworkers, etc.
  • unprofessional screen names and email addresses
  • sharing of confidential information from previous workplaces
  • lying about absences or time away from the office

How to polish existing social media accounts and create a professional online presence:

1.) Create a professional social media account, such as LinkedIn.  Many individual’s are hesitant to create their accounts because they are unsure what to put on the profile or how to make appropriate connections, so view the NDSU Career and Advising Center’s “LinkedIn Essentials” handout for additional guidelines and recommendations to follow and the “LinkedIn job search tips” to learn about more benefits to the platform.

2.) Check privacy settings on accounts and, depending on the content, try to limit the accessibility to only those necessary.

3.) If you feel that you have been guilty of any of the items listed in the bullet point list above, take the time to remove as much of the unprofessional content as possible.  Note:  If it’s been posted, it’s still online forever but you can remove the ease of finding it.

4.) Always be aware of what you are posting and how that may portray your professionalism to someone you’ve never met.  An example is using dry humor online, which can often be misconstrued or misunderstood out of context.

5.) What do profile pictures say about you, your personality, and your level of professionalism?  Consider adding a professional head shot, especially on a LinkedIn account.  Free head shots are taken for all those that attend NDSU Career Fairs, and this can be a great way to boost professionalism in your online presence.

6.) Google yourself.  What do you find?  Is there incorrect information about criminal history out there – especially for those with more common names, or information that is easy to find that you may not be “next best candidate” material?