Think about your own Facebook profile for a minute. What would potential employers find on it? Are you putting your best foot forward, or is it filled with party pics and links to cat videos? If you were looking to hire someone in your potential field, would you hire you?
Several recent studies show that college recruiters and potential employers alike will be checking your Facebook profile as part of the application process. A survey by the employment website CareerBuilder shows that 37 percent of the companies surveyed use social media, including Facebook, to screen potential employees. Human resource professionals are checking to see if you present yourself professionally, are a good fit for the corporate culture, and to learn more about your qualifications. They are also simply looking for reasons not to hire you.
Why not just avoid this whole area and delete your Facebook profile? Employers are on to this trick. Forbes reported last year that young people without Facebook accounts may be considered “suspicious.” According to Forbes, if employers can’t find you on Facebook, they might think you’re hiding something. They might assume you’ve deleted it because of too many red flags or, worst case scenario, you’re some sort of anti-social psychopath. It’s much better just to scrub your profile clean, no matter how long it takes.
Repair your public image
Have you ever seen your profile from the public’s perspective? It’s probably different from what you and your friends see all the time. Visit your Timeline page and click on the gear drop-down menu located under your cover photo on the right hand side and select “View As…” Your window will dim and a tip will show up. Read it and click “Okay.” Now you’re seeing exactly what the general public will see.
Take a minute to look through your photo albums. You’ve got an opportunity to put your best foot forward here. All of those drunken party photos should probably either be deleted or set to only be seen by your friends. Simply click on the image, click on edit, then change the setting from “Public” to “Friends” or “Only Me.”
What about all of those pictures you’re tagged in from other people? You have to manually remove each individual photo. Click on the offending image and at the top right corner, you will see a link that says, “On your timeline – remove”. If you click “remove,” the photo will disappear from your timeline and the photos section of your profile.
You also might want to consider making a few private images public for a potential employer to look through. They’re not just watching for red flags, they’re also looking to get a good feel of your personality and creativity.
Next, look through your Favorites and make sure you don’t have any offensive likes. The same goes for your timeline posts and favorite quotes. Be sure to keep items that show your interests and could be something that your potential employer would like to see. Also double-check your info for accuracy.
If you need to wholesale change all of your old posts and photos, visit your privacy settings. You can limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or public with a couple of clicks. This ia a permanent change and can’t be undone as easily as you might think. Also, don’t forget to go back and cherry-pick a few posts and photos to show off to your potential employer.
Keep it clean
Now that you have all your skeletons safely tucked away in your closet, it’s time to keep it that way. Make sure your post privacy settings are set to “Friends” or some custom group you’ve chosen. Steer clear of “Friends of Friends.” If you’ve got 200 friends and each of those friends has 200 friends, it’s really easy for your posts to be seen by thousands of people you don’t know including your potential employer.
If you’re concerned that items, including photos of you, in which you’re tagged may continue to leak onto your timeline, you can set Facebook to notify you before it posts those items to your timeline. Simply visit your Timeline and Tagging Settings page and enable “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline.” Note that posts you’re tagged in will still appear in search, news feeds and other places on Facebook, but will not show up on your timeline.
You may also want to go through your settings and make sure that you are as secure as possible. On the Security Settings page, enable Secure Browsing and Login Notifications. If you’re particularly paranoid, you may even want to enable Login Approvals. Be aware that using Facebook on campus will cause you to get lots of text messages and/or password prompts because of the way the network is structured.
Of course the best way to keep your online presence clean is to remember that the internet is forever. Stuff that you post online can come back and haunt you years down the road no matter what precautions you think you’ve taken. Congressmen and generals have proven that time and time again. If you engage in risky behavior online, it will catch up to you.