From Facebook to Twitter and LinkedIn, social media profiles are now part of everyday life for the majority of us. However, while they can be a great tool to find out about job vacancies and promote your professional skills, they can also disclose information about us we would like to keep if not private, away from future employers.
Here are 10 tips to make sure your social media profiles are bulletproof.
1) Be careful about what you post on social media and the language you use
It might seem straightforward, but what you post on social media can offer a pretty accurate picture of how you behave when you're not at work. Tweeting insults to strangers because they have a different opinion is hardly going to paint you in a positive light, as is describing the prime minister as a "clueless, bigoted racist" on your Facebook status.
Likewise, if you aim to become a sports journalist, for example, you are better off avoiding claiming on social media that a certain player should be shot for scoring against your team. Opinion matters to companies and, crucially, those expressed on social media are very easy to discover for potential employers.
2) Blogs can be a double-edged sword
In certain sectors, blogs have become an increasingly important factor for people aiming at securing a certain job. If you want to work in media for a living, for example, proof that you have contributed to an established blog – or, even better, created your own – can go some way in impressing your future employer.
On the other hand, however, if your blog is nothing more than a collection of rants, characterised by poor grammatical standards and a conspicuous lack of facts, then you are better off deleting it.
3) In the right frame
They say a picture tells a thousand words. In most cases, it is true. Remember that trip to Prague when you and your mates got royally drunk and ended up urinating in a fountain after taking all your clothes off for a bet? Now, you and your mates might think it is funny to have a photographic documentation of said shenanigans up on social media but any prospective employers is unlikely to do so.
Bar crawls are great fun and so are trips away with your mates, but your employer does not need to see what you get up to.
Likewise, LinkedIn is professional-oriented network, therefore act accordingly. A formal picture is 100% better than the great snap of you crawling out of your favourite pub at 11pm.
4) Keep your social media accounts private
A good way from preventing your potential employers from formulating an opinion about yourself before they have even met you is to keep your Facebook profile private. Make sure only your friends can see your pictures and statuses, given you're extremely unlikely to befriend your boss on social media.
Alternatively, if you do not feel the need to seclude yourself completely from the outside world, just set your albums privacy on private.
5) Google yourself
Just like you might google your next company online, your future boss will do exactly the same. To prevent unpleasant surprise, look your name up on the internet and delete any posts, pictures or comments that might compromise you or paint you in a bad light.
6) Clean up your social media groups and likes
What you get up to in your personal life is your business and yours only, but there is very little need to plaster it across social media. Listing "binge drinking" among your preferred activities on Facebook is guaranteed to make you stand out in the eyes of an employer, but for all the wrong reasons.
Likewise, if you have joined dozens of Facebook groups that post racist or radical political content, you might not come across as the ideal choice. Nobody wants you to change your views, but leave groups that might be a turn off for employers.
7) Be honest
Honesty and transparency are crucial for employers. Therefore, claiming on social media that you have graduated with a first class degree from Oxford will not make you look good in the eyes of a potential employer, who knows you have never opened a book after your A-Levels.
Similarly, if you pull a sickie on Friday, then make sure you are not tagged in a Facebook post disclosing that you are, in fact, flying out for a weekend away and do not tweet about heading to the races if you have asked for a day off for your grandmother's funeral.
8) Synchronise your CV with LinkedIn
Employers are unlikely to make a decision on candidates purely on their LinkedIn's profiles, but you should always take time to ensure it is as updated as possible. If your CV lists three positions since you have left your student job, make sure that is reflected by your LinkedIn profile and vice versa. Employers are likely to look at both but you only get one chance to make a good impression.
9) Limit tagging
Even if you have set your profile to private and have deleted the pictures from every pub crawl you attended while at university, your friends can still tag you in posts that might not necessarily cast you in the best possible light.
You can go around asking them not to tag you in compromising posts or pictures or you can save time and adjust your privacy settings so you can decide what posts you can be tagged in.
10) Change for good
Finally, if it has taken a huge amount of time to clean up your social media profiles, that means that it is time for a change of attitude online. Nobody wants to stop you being opinionated on Twitter and Facebook but do so by presenting valid arguments, rather than raving like a lunatic and insulting those who do not agree with you.
After all the effort you have put in to clean your profile, it would be silly to having to do it all over again.