It should be no surprise to most of us that employers do more than just interview potential employees. Most prudent companies screen candidates in a variety of ways before considering making an offer – and today, this screening process often includes a look through social media. It should be less of a surprise that certain things on social media can reflect negatively upon your professional image. Here are some tips to ensure you keep your online presence in an attractive condition:

Lock down your privacy settings. It is entirely up to you which and how much of your social media profiles are geared towards your professional image. For example, you may decide that you do not want employers to see all of your online correspondences between your friends and other social media users – and this is fine, as long as you ensure that your privacy settings are locked down. It perfectly within an employer’s rights to look at your social media and make a hiring decision based upon information they find. It is better to be safe than sorry. There are situations, of course, where it can be advantageous to leave your account on public privacy settings – for example if it is a professional account dedicated promotion of your personal brand – but for most, locking down privacy settings is wise.

However, always remember: never post anything inappropriate online, even on locked accounts. It is best not to post compromising information or inappropriate content on any social media regardless of privacy settings. Every social media account you use, whether it is intended for professional eyes or not, should hold up under scrutiny. Moreover, locked accounts can still be accessed and screenshotted by someone who has access to a restricted account. Things like evidence of drug use, discriminatory comments related to race, gender, or religion, and poor communication or grammar could be reason enough to dissuade a company from considering you. If you decide to share content publicly on social media, make sure that is information that portrays you in a positive light.

Make sure your profile and CV is up to date. Ensure that there are no discrepancies between the information on your account and the CV you send out to companies. Make sure qualifications and employment dates are aligned as this may signal poor attention to detail, or worse, hidden elements of your working history. Also, make sure that your profile photos are up to date and convey a professional image. This advice refers more directly to sites such as LinkedIn, which are geared specifically towards highlighting your professional qualifications, but still applies to all social media. Check that you have not left any outdated information anywhere – perhaps on a Google+ account that you no longer use, for example – as it may contradict your current CV. Be sure to search your own name online and check all the information that it returns across all sites.

Do not post during business hours and do not disparage any former employer’s on social media! Just as our last article emphasised the importance of not disparaging former employers in interviews, the same goes for social media. Employers look at social media because they want to know whether you are a good fit for the company and to check that there are no reasons that they can find to not hire you – do not give them any!

Social media is an all-pervading part of society, and therefore of modern life, professional and otherwise. Do not focus solely on censoring your social media; try instead to think of it as a space for you to building solid social networks and showcase what it is that makes you an attractive candidate/employee. Use social media to your advantage rather than leaving information to your detriment. Statistics show that half of all job seekers are active on social networking sites on a daily basis, and more than a third of all employers utilise these sites in their hiring process so be sure to keep all of the considers tips and warnings in mind to aid your job search and professional image.