You have a wealth of experience in your field, a proven record of success and the kind of top-level expertise that would make you a valuable asset for any company. Yet, at the height of the digital age, even that isn’t enough to guarantee that you’ll land the prestigious position you’ve been gunning for.

With social media more prevalent than ever, recruiters are paying just as much (if not more) attention to what you put online as what you put in your CV.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, 60% of recruiters regularly check the social media accounts of potential candidates. And, another survey by Flexjobs suggested that as many as 93% of recruiters will use a person’s online presence to help determine whether they’re a good fit for a role.

That in itself should be enough to convince anyone in today’s job market to take stock of how they present themselves online. In case it isn’t, here are seven more reasons why it pays to clean up your social media before you start your job search.

1. Employers want to know if you’ll fit in

According to a study carried out by Careersavvy, 51% of recruiters research potential candidates online to see if they’ll be a good fit for company culture.

When you think about it, that makes a lot of sense.

In any new role, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your new colleagues in an environment where culture is already well-established. Recruiters want to know that, should they hire you, you’re going to blend well into that culture and get along with those you work with.

If your social media profiles present you as brash, loud and abrasive, well… it can certainly be off-putting if your new environment has a calmer and quieter vibe.

2. Social media could be the only thing separating you and another candidate

You’ve got a top degree from a renowned university. Your last senior management role saw you increase company turnover by 20 per cent. And that presentation you did at the last big industry thing really knocked it out of the park.

On paper, you look like the perfect candidate, but so too does the other applicant. You know, the one whose qualifications, track record and keynote speech are every bit as impressive as yours.

When it comes down to it, the only thing separating the two of you is your social media presence.

On her Instagram, she shares her love of the great outdoors and her passion for supporting charitable causes. On yours, you share boozy nights out and expletive-filled rants about your ex.

Faced with that, who would you choose?

3. Prove you can deliver added value

Cleaning up your social media isn’t just about deleting ill-advised tweets and compromising photos. It’s also a chance to consider what you could add to your profiles that make you stand out.

If you haven’t already done so, this is a perfect opportunity to establish your expertise or thought-leadership by writing short articles and sharing them on LinkedIn. You might also consider how you could use Instagram or YouTube to demonstrate your skills or knowledge. Show that you’re capable of doing more than the job description.

4. Increase your reach

Of course, it isn’t just hiring managers and recruiters who are already on your radar that you can impress by showcasing your knowledge and expertise online.

Done right, a clean, well-presented social media profile with valuable content could potentially attract top headhunters and recruiters looking to fill the kind of high-level role you haven’t even heard about. Great social media presence can hugely increase your chances of landing the role of your dreams.

5. You never know who you’re talking to

Having deleted all those questionable status updates and unflattering photos, it may be time to clean up your act and consider how you use social media in the future. That includes thinking carefully about the language that you use and the way you interact with other people online.

In 2018, a woman made headlines after she lost her NASA internship as a result of a few profanity-laden tweets.

Expressing her excitement over her new internship by tweeting a cuss-filled message, Twitter user NaomiH was encouraged to tone down her language by Homer Hickman, a member of the National Space Council which oversees NASA. Unfortunately, the eager tweeter didn’t realise who she was talking to and sent him a second profane tweet, leading to NASA withdrawing their offer of an internship.

Though it was later revealed that Hickman had nothing to do with NASA’s decision, this story does prove to be a valuable lesson for all of us about the way we interact with others online.

6. Your groups and associations reveal a lot about you

Keep in mind that some recruiters may look deeper than the content you share on social media.

After all, it’s relatively easy to delete a few questionable posts and upload new content that paints you in a better light. But, one look at the kind of people you’re associated with online could be enough to derail any chances of landing that job.

Following NSFW (Not Safe for Work) accounts on Instagram, being a member of overly political online groups or even being Facebook friends with people who spend all their time partying, may not go down too well.

As such, it pays to not just clean up your own content but to also consider whether it might be time to cull some of your online connections.

7. The past can still come back to haunt you

Since you first got serious about taking your career to the next level you’ve been incredibly cautious about what you share online.

That’s a good start, but it may not be enough.

Recruiters may still go back into your past and, if they go far enough, who knows what they’ll find? If there was a time when you maybe weren’t so careful about what you were sharing online, it’s probably a good idea to go way back and get rid of those posts before they come back to haunt you.

Five quick tips for cleaning your social media presence

Now that you know why it’s such a good idea to clean up your social media, here are a few easy ways to get started.

1. Google yourself

Head to Google and search for your own name. It’s best to do this in a private/incognito browser so that you’re more likely to see what other people see when they search for you. Ask yourself — are those first few results really what you’d want potential employers to see? If not, make moves to delete or suppress them.

2. Don’t forget image and video tabs

Remember, it isn’t just the main search results page where your digital footprint appears. Pictures, videos, and even news items you were featured in can all be found by switching tabs, so it pays to look there, too.

3. Use the ‘Grandma Test’

Having taken stock of what comes up when people search for you online, you’ll like be able to see straight away the kind of posts that are better off being deleted. If you’re still not sure, use the ‘Grandma Test.’ In other words, ask yourself whether or not you’d be happy for your grandma to see that post, tweet, or photo. If not, that might be a sign that it should be deleted too.

4. Use privacy settings wisely

Even after deleting anything incriminating, you still might want to consider setting your Facebook and other accounts to private. At the same time, be sure to establish a professional social media presence. Perhaps by optimising your Linkedin profile or establishing a career-focused Twitter account.

5. Claim your URLs and usernames

If you haven’t already done so, go online and register social media accounts in your name, even if you don’t plan on using them. That way, you avoid the risk of a recruiter searching for your name on Instagram or Twitter, finding the account of somebody with the name as you, and mistaking it as yours. Can really trust that if somebody looks up @BobJones on Twitter, they’re not going to find someone with extreme views and assume that those views are yours?

While we’re on the subject, now might be a good idea to see whether yourname.com or yourname.org is available and claim those URLs to protect your online presence.

Good luck!

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