What are you posting on Facebook?

Chances are, your profile activity includes cat memes, humorous videos, and the occasional status update. You might not give a second thought to the things you post and share, or to the photos you’re tagged in.

But what if a potential employer had access to your Facebook? Would you change what you share online? Would you alter your language?

It’s easy to feel like your social media profile is private and away from the peering eyes of employers. But unless you’ve taken the proper steps to secure your profile, you might be surprised at just how much can be seen----even by those who aren’t your “friends.”

To employer-proof your Facebook, there are a few key steps to follow.

Post Like Your Gran’s Watching

Before you even begin to consider security settings for your profile, start at the source: yourself.

Your social media profile is absolutely your own space, and you’ve got free will to post or share whatever you choose (in line with Facebook’s general guidelines). But just because you can post something doesn’t mean you should. What you share on social media has a bigger impact than you might think, influencing how you’re perceived by others. Perhaps you don’t concern yourself too much with the opinions of others, but with social media, what you post can be seen by many. The vast majority of us would prefer to be seen in the way we want to be seen, and if we have aspirations in our careers and personal lives, we likely desire to promote a professional and likeable perception.

A great basic rule to follow with social media is to pretend that your dear old Gran can see everything you post. This is a smart strategy for gauging the palatability of what you post. While grandmothers might be more “old-fashioned” than most, we all know that these ladies grew up knowing manners and etiquette. If what you post would be gran-approved, you know you’re safe. But if you’d be embarrassed if she saw it, think again.

Keeping your gran in mind helps you to steer clear of problematic language or dubious posts. After all, no one wants to offend their sweet and gentle grandmother. If something you’re about to post would offend your gran’s traditional sensibilities, perhaps it’s something you should think twice about posting.

Grandmother on Facebook
Don’t post anything on Facebook you wouldn’t want your Gran to see

Will Potential Employers Check Your Social Media?

You may be thinking, isn’t all this worry for nothing? Employers don’t actually check my social media profiles, do they?

The answer is they do, and they likely will continue to do so. Statistics show that some 60% of potential employers look at candidates’ social media accounts as part of their hiring consideration. Not only that, but over the past decade, the percentage employers using social media in candidate screening has risen a whopping 500%! It’s clear that social media can play a significant role in the ultimate outcome of a hiring process.

Here are some telling stats:

Source: JobVite 2014 Social Recruiting Survey

Ways to Employer-Proof Your Facebook

Now that you know what is probably wise to avoid on your social media profiles, it’s time to take steps to get them polished up. We’re focusing on Facebook in this article, as it’s the most widely used social platform in the world, but you can apply these tips to Twitter, LinkedIn, or other platforms.

Run a scan on BrandYourself

You can use the site BrandYourself to scan your online reputation from a professional standpoint. This tool can identify problematic photos you might have on your social media profiles, find negative results about you in search engines, and even unearth any of your past statuses and posts containing profanity or questionable content. This is a great starting point for figuring out where you might have room for improvement.

Brand Yourself
This individual scored fairly well for positive online reputation.

Clean up your photos

Take a glance through your Facebook photos: both yours and those you’re tagged in. Do these images represent you well? Are there pictures that could be subject to particular scrutiny? If in doubt, remove the photo from social media.

You might have to scroll back quite far, especially if you started using social media in your teens or twenties. Many of us change quite a bit in those years, and it’s easy for an immature snapshot to stick around in your profile---perhaps something which is not reflective of you at all in the current day. Clean up your photos and remove anything that seems questionable. Photos that show excess alcohol consumption---even empty cups---are a good place to start.

Tidy up your profile and your history

Photos can be some of the most ‘incriminating’ social media posts out there, but what about the things you’ve shared or the statuses you’ve written? If you want to be as clean as possible, it’s worth sifting through your Facebook history and deleting incidences of profanity, or posts you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. The ideal situation is that you’ll never post such things in the first place, but on a personal social media profile, especially one that has been active for years, it’s likely you’ve said or shared at least one thing you’re less than proud of. An hour spent cleaning up your history and profile can make a big difference.

If you’re actively applying for jobs, it makes sense to spruce up your Facebook profile a bit. Ensure all the information on it is accurate and up-to-date. While you don’t need to turn your Facebook account into a resume of your skills and experience, it should reflect upon you in a positive manner. Perhaps, through your profile, a potential employer will have the impression of an individual they’d be excited to work with.

*Beef up your LinkedIn profile, too. Employers don’t just check Facebook, they’re extremely likely to browse LinkedIn, as well, particularly to view your professional connections.

Ensure your privacy settings are intact.

If you’ve got your Facebook settings adjusted correctly, you can worry a great deal less. If your settings are set to show your photos, updates, etc. to “Friends” only, this removes the concern that what you post might be seen publicly. Of course, remember that anything you’ve posted online could be forwarded or passed on. Your Facebook friends have the ability to take a screenshot or screen grab, so tread carefully---and make sure you have trustworthy friends!

A clean Facebook presence isn’t just important for jobs eekers, it’s essential for current employees, too. If you’re friends with a work colleague, don’t boast on Facebook about calling in ‘sick’ and skipping out on work for a day of fun. You might not be friends with your boss, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a colleague to rat you out to the boss. This is a good reminder that you should never put anything potentially incriminating in writing!

If you want to ensure your Facebook updates can be seen by friends only, head to your Settings and Navigate to Privacy. You’ll see at the top that you can control both who can see future posts (in the photo below it is set to Friends) and who can see previous posts. If you want to make past posts private, click on that setting to make the change.

Facebook Privacy Settings

Check the “view as” feature

If you ever want to confirm what a certain person can see, you can use the View As feature. You can access this feature directly from your profile. Simply locate the 3 dots on your header pic, found right next to “View Activity Log.” From there, you can see what your profile looks like to the public, or view it as a specific person.

View Facebook Profile as

Manually approve tags

On the Settings menu, click on Timeline and Tagging (found right below Privacy). In this section, you can set up a feature that requires you to approve any photos or posts you are tagged in before they appear on your timeline. This is an excellent feature that gives you total control over what you are associated with on Facebook. Without this setting activated, you can be tagged by any Friends in various photos, statuses, and more. These tags will be displayed on your profile, and could potentially create some worrying situations if a friend tags you in something untoward.

Once you’ve got your settings adjusted to manually approve tags, you’ll see an option as a drop down on each post you could potentially be tagged in. From there you can approve or deny.

Facebook Tagging

Comment wisely

Just because your profile is private and secure doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Don’t forget that plenty of other areas of Facebook are public. Comments you make on the public posts of someone else or on a public page can be visible to the wider world, and may even appear in google search results. Keep this in mind when commenting, and only comment what you’d feel comfortable sharing on your own profile (when Gran is watching of course). Next time you feel tempted to make a snarky comment on a public news story post, reconsider. You don’t want your hastily-typed words to haunt your career prospects.

Consider group behaviour

Also, people often behave differently in a closed group than they would in a public group or on a public post. If you’re in any private groups on Facebook, you might feel secure in this knowledge and feel comfortable posting openly and without filtering your conversation. However, it’s important to bear in mind that the group admin could make the group public at any time, at which point it would become easy for anyone to find your activity. Again, it’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to what we share on social media.

Your Facebook Profile as a Credential

You don’t necessarily have to look at your Facebook account as a potential detriment; it could also be an advantage. Why not spiff up your Facebook to be a beautiful professional profile? If you’d prefer, LinkedIn is a great place for this as well, but there’s no harm in making your Facebook look its very best. You never know what great opportunities might come your way.

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With these tips, we hope you’ll ensure that your social media profile never holds you back in your professional life.

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