Careers advice

How to clean up your social media identity when job hunting

It’s no myth, employers look at candidates’ social media profiles. Here’s how to give yours a professional touch.

Can employers see your social media? If your accounts aren’t set to private – yes, yes they can. Do employers look at candidates’ social media accounts? Again, it’s a big ol’ Y.E.S. Is there anything you can do about it? You bet.

When it comes to applying for jobs, success is all about being on the front foot. So, if you’re worried about what your social media could reveal, it’s time to take action.

Here’s how to pull an invisibility cloak over anything you don’t want employers to see, and some tips for turning social media to your advantage when looking for jobs in NZ.

We bet you've got old posts on your social media that would make you want to hide away.

Cleaning up your social media: the steps

1. Google yourself

A simple Google search is an easy place to start learning about your digital footprint. Simply plug your names in to the search bar, and see what pops up. Hint: if you’ve got a common name, add some additional info that an employer would have from your CV – the name of your highschool, uni or hometown, for example.

Click through each relevant link and investigate what’s on the other side. Group the results into ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘neutral’, depending on if you think an employer would be impressed, put off or not bothered by what they see.

2. A quick fix

From this survey, let’s say your posts on Facebook are giving you the most concern. The obvious next question in this situation is “How do I stop a potential employer from seeing my Facebook?”.

Easy – just set your account to private. In fact, you could do this for all your social media profiles, meaning that only approved followers can see what you post. If you’re happy to go private, guess what? You’re done.

However, doing this means you’ll miss out on using social media to your advantage, so if that’s something you want to try, read on.

Going private is an easy way to control who can see your social media activity.

3. Cleaning up your social media without going private

  • Hide or delete posts

We’ve all got skeletons in our social media closets – photos from nights out, jokes we found funny 10 years ago or public complaints about old bosses. These are all red flags to potential employers.

When looking through your old posts, ask yourself “does this align with the image I’m trying to get across?” – if not, it’s time to say goodbye.

Bonus tip: don’t just look at your posts. Check friends’ photos you were tagged in, as these can also show up when employers search for you.

  • Deactivate old accounts

If you’ve ever started fresh with a new social media account, but left your old one active, it’s probably best to finally put it to bed. Duplicate accounts only make your life more difficult, and can confuse employers.

  • Add a proper bio and handles

If your current bio is blank, or filled with something you thought was edgy aged 17, it’s time to bring it into line with your new personal brand.

There’s no ‘correct’ way to do this, but we’d advise picking a couple of achievements, including what you’re doing now, and maybe throwing in a hobby for extra colour. Make this message consistent across all your public social platforms.

As for handles, your name is the safest best – sorry ‘TotalLegend01’.

  • Choose the right profile picture

This will be the first thing potential employers see when they find your account, so your profile picture needs to present the right impression. Choose wisely.

Add professional handles, profile pictures and biographies to your accounts.

How can you use social media to your advantage in your job search?

1. Engage with the right people and organisations

Twitter is a great place for getting involved with interesting industry debates and discussions, but first you need to follow the right accounts. This could be anyone from recognised industry experts who inspire you, news sources or insightful blogs.

2. Post great content

Read an article you thought gave a fresh perspective? Watched a great speech? Come across a post giving useful industry tips? Don’t be shy – share it so employers can see you’re up to date with the industry. If you’ve got your own blog posts to share, even better!

Note: make sure you carefully read anything you share to make sure you agree with it all, and so you can answer questions on it in your interview.

3. Link to your Job Profile and portfolio

An easy way to make your social media look more professional, and advertise your skills and experience, is to provide links to your Trade Me Jobs Profile and online portfolio of work.

Just make sure your profile is updated with your latest achievements, so employers get the full picture of what a great asset you’d be to their team.