Make no mistake, making a good impression as an applicant to college or as a job seeker is not merely based on transcripts, resume, recommendations and how you present yourself in an interview. Like it or not, your ‘social media you,’ the online persona, also sometime referred to as the digital footprint, you have crafted via likes, comments, group affiliations and posts is being observed.

In fact, 45 percent of employers admit checking out candidates on social media. And, one in three employers have rejected candidates based on something they found out about them online.

When someone is evaluating you, they can learn a great deal about you from your social media profiles, maybe more than you would like! Don’t let careless social media hygiene keep you from an opportunity that you have been working towards.

Basic Social Media Hygiene Steps:

  1. Google yourself. Find out what others can learn about you and see if it matches the impression you are hoping to make. You can also setup Google Alerts for your name to get notified when someone posts something about you that is indexed by Google.
  2. Clean it up. Use the information you gained by Googling yourself and gather more from your social media profiles. Clean up images, updates and comments that don’t flatter you.
  3. Lock it down. Now is the time to reconsider privacy settings and with intention be specific about who can and cannot see the details of your private life. But remember, you never know who many be a friend of a friend and be able to see something you thought was a private post.


Take a look at the pictures that you’ve posted on your social media accounts. Ask yourself what kind of image you are presenting of yourself with these pictures. Maybe some or all of your social pictures should be taken down. After all, if the impression you want to make is that someone can count on you to show up, represent well and get the job done, an emphasis on your festive nights out may not be the way to go. Remember to go to the privacy settings in your profile and manage more specifically who can and cannot see your posts.


Take a look at your social media bios and ask yourself if it represents you, as you want to be seen as a professional. Make sure the bio is coherent, much like a resume, and says who you are and what you do—especially what you what to be known for professionally. But it’s OK to include some personality. After all, your bio may be the first thing that someone looks at to decide whether or not you deserve a follow. An old, unattractive or blank headshot or clearly outdated information, confusing chat or jokes or a lack of information is sloppy and will not score you any points as an applicant.

Friends and Followers

When it comes to your ‘social media you,’ you are who you’re friends with. And employers may very well check who you are connected to. If your friends don’t represent well on social media, this may have an impact on you. To that end, you should probably regularly delete or unfollow people who don’t adhere to the level of social media hygiene that you do.  Look at your connections. When you first joined social media you probably accepted most requests to connect, but it makes sense to regularly edit friends and followers so that you can be directed towards your professional goals. Remove people from your network who aren’t helpful or positive. Make sure you keep your network updated with new contacts and join industry relevant groups and leave those that are no longer useful.


Posting political and religious posts runs the risk of alienating others who have different beliefs. And yet, this is a time when we, as a society, are very expressive about our points of view on social media. If you are seeking acceptance into a school program or are a job seeker, tone down what you post and how you comment to avoid that level of alienation. It won’t serve you well at this moment. Take a look at your posts, especially the recent ones and ask yourself if there are any that are inappropriate from a professional point-of-view. It should go without saying that provocative posts—anything with sexual content or discriminatory, or featuring drinking or drugs is not appropriate. Also bad, complaining about an employer or colleague. Being negative or grumpy is also not the path to success. Remember, once you post something online, it lives on the internet forever. That said, you can delete anything you don’t want to draw attention to, including off-color comments or awkward jokes that could be taken poorly. Whether its discovered or not, depends on the intensity of the review (and if any of your connection shared or posted your images, videos, or comments elsewhere)


If there are people or businesses whose posts you no longer want to see or want others to see that you follow, unfollow them. Delete those who post things that don’t interest you, those who never post or are those who incessantly post content that you are not interested in. Look at the groups that you’re associated with, if they are no longer relevant or appropriate leave them. Unlike or mute the people or pages that are no longer relevant or appropriate to you.


It’s fine if you want to take a moment to cry over your invasion of privacy or lament the Big Brother intrusion into your life. You also need to get over it. For better or worse, YOU have to be responsible for curating your social media image. Employers and others are watching, and will continue to watch—and it’s not all bad. What they see about you online can help them determine your qualifications and how you fit into a company’s culture. You can control how they see you on social media. Use this to your advantage and share content that is interesting and relevant to your industry. Show that you are connected to your industry of choice by following thought leaders and companies in your sector. Share your passion for your field and get noticed for the right reasons.

Savvy Cyber Kids educates and empowers digital citizens, from parents and grandparents, to teachers and students. Sign up for our free resources to help you navigate today’s digital world with cyber ethics. See more cyber safety and cyber ethics blogs produced exclusively for EarthLink. Looking for a social media parental control? Try a 30-day free trial of Bark. If you sign up after your trial, Bark donates 25% of your monthly fee to Savvy Cyber Kids.

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