There are a lot of steps you should take to prepare for an interview, but one precaution that is crucial and frequently overlooked is cleaning up your digital presence.
There are a lot of steps you should take to prepare for an interview, but one precaution that is crucial and frequently overlooked is cleaning up your digital footprint. Recruiters are responsible for shaping a company’s culture and helping an organization grow positively, and your contributions, offline and online, are a part of that.
This can be an extensive process but don’t worry! We’ve broken down the 6 steps you need to take to get your online presence interview ready.
Your first step is to look yourself up! You need to find out what information is out there about you to know what to purge and what to highlight.
Search your full name in incognito and then do that in several different browsers to find out how you show up online. If there are more famous or prominent people who share your name, you can embrace that anonymity. If you’d rather be the first result when you search your name, you have some work to do!
Clean Up Your LinkedIn
LinkedIn is your most important social media account for your professional life, and the company (hopefully) hiring you will absolutely check out your profile. (Your future co-workers will likely check it out as well!)
Start from top to bottom on your LinkedIn profile. Choose a professional profile picture and try to use a banner photo image showing your experience or more of your professional personality. Make sure your skills section is up-to-date and ask for endorsements from your coworkers. Don’t bother with highlighting skills like Microsoft Office— that’s expected in the modern workforce. This is the time to let your specialized skills shine!
In general, try to be active on LinkedIn! It might not be your social media platform of choice but it will make a good impression on your peers. A sudden desperate flurry of activity won’t move the marker, but a consistent, thoughtful presence on that platform can help you stand out to recruiters.
Share some impactful thought leadership, post photos from networking or industry events, comment on a friend’s promotion— find ways to be authentic and active.
Delete Old Accounts
Many workers today grew up with social media; if that’s you, you might have a lot of accounts on different platforms and if your accounts have similar usernames, they might show up on a recruiter’s radar so get rid of anything you don’t actively use.
Potential employers might find your old Pinterest account from middle school or your Youtube channel when you wanted to make it big as a vlogger. If the idea of your future boss seeing it makes you cringe, it’s got to go.
“Job seekers should focus on presenting a professional and positive online presence that showcases their skills, experiences, and values,” says In The Know.
If you don’t want to delete old accounts, try changing your username to something entirely different than what you use on your main platforms. It will prevent cross-contamination and make those accounts harder to find.
Purge Your Friends List
This might sound harsh, but having a small but mighty friends list is better than a collection of bots, random people, and your acquaintances from high school. This isn’t just for convenience; if someone you frequently interact with has an inflammatory public presence online, it can negatively affect how you’re perceived.
There are legal restrictions and requirements around how employers screen candidates’ social media platforms, but those rules vary by location, so it’s better to be cautious and put your best foot forward. Make sure that your public connections are positive and reflect well on you.
Enlist a Friend to Double Check Your Work
After you’ve locked down your profiles, deleted old content, and refreshed your LinkedIn, get a friend to test the security of your social media presence.
Ask them to log out of their profiles (or go Incognito) and search your name, look at your profiles, and pass judgment as a recruiter might. You might be surprised at how Facebook displays security settings to others, or the information still displayed in your Instagram bio.
By having someone else check your work, you’re doubling your chances of successfully preventing any roadblocks in your upcoming interviews.
Have Answers Ready to Account for All Content
After all of this evaluation and work, there might be a part of your digital footprint that you’re unwilling to compromise on or get rid of. Maybe it’s volunteer experience with a political party or a reflection of personal viewpoints that you will be bringing into your workplace.
If you feel very strongly about content or experiences you’ve shared and don’t want to delete them from your profiles, that’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s about what you’re willing to share (and unwilling to hide!).
The best preparation you can do in this scenario is to practice responses to potential questions from recruiters. You don’t need to justify or get defensive; simply have a reason prepared.
Tie your answer back to your work skills. If it was a volunteer position, focus on the skills you learned during that experience and how they will help in your future work. Stay positive and explanatory and don’t be surprised if the recruiter doesn’t move forward.
Make the Right First Impression
Cleaning up your digital footprint doesn’t have to be intimidating— use this as an opportunity to review your online presence and use of social media. Remember to post intentionally, have another person check your profiles, and prepare to account for your digital decisions.
About the Author
Jaime Faulkner believes authenticity and storytelling are the keys to successful marketing. As a graduate from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, she loves finding and connecting narratives. When she's not at work, she's psychoanalyzing contestants on The Bachelor, painting, listening to podcasts, or playing tabletop RPGs.