Get Rid of Your Digital Dirt Once and For All

Published on April 3, 2014 by arothstein

BVU_digital_dirtSocial media and online profiles are fun, easy ways to connect and share updates with your friends, but did you know that Jobvite, the leading recruiting platform for the social Web, reported that in 2013, 42 percent of recruiters have reconsidered an applicant based on what a social profile revealed? Make sure you are taking the right steps to clean up your digital dirt and present yourself as a professional, qualified candidate for any job you may be seeking.

Be Aware

Being aware of how you are portrayed online is critical to your job search. Although living in a digital world has made our lives easier, it’s important to remember that anything you’ve ever posted online is out there for the world to see. This means that those pictures you posted in your early college days or sites you signed up for five years ago that don’t necessarily portray who you are today are out there for a potential employer to see. The first step in being fully aware of what your online presence says about you is to Google your name. “If anything negative comes up in the search results, that can hurt your chances,” says Christine Karel, social media manager for Globe Education Network. “Think about it as if you, yourself, are a product, like a car for example. Would you choose the car that has negative ratings or the car that has five-star ratings? Recruiters are going to look at you the same way.” If you are just entering your career, chances are you have very little online information that positively showcases the work you’ve done in your field. This makes it even more critical that when someone Googles your name that the first thing they see is not your old Friendster profile, photos posted from a party last weekend or a profanity-laced tweet. Being aware of your online presence is the first step to controlling how you are presented.

Clean Up

Now that you’re aware of your digital dirt, it’s time to clean it up. “To start you will want to Google yourself under every name and username you’ve ever used and print out the first ten pages of results,” says Karel. “Highlight anything that portrays you negatively and work on deleting those accounts or changing the privacy settings.” Karel points out that even accounts that don’t necessarily make you look bad but that you no longer use can be a strike against you. “There are two things that a recruiter will see as a red flag: inappropriate activity, or none at all,” she says. If you don’t use that old Myspace account anymore, delete it. If the Facebook photos from the party you had last weekend show up, adjust your privacy settings. Going forward, Karel suggests setting up Google Alerts for yourself. Stay in front of any online activity by receiving an email every time something is posted that is associated with your name or usernames. If you know it’s out there, you can control it.

Be Proactive

If your online history hasn’t been the best, it’s not too late to change how potential employers see you. Once you’ve cleaned up your existing presence, it’s important to be proactive about creating a positive image for yourself. There may be some things on the Web you can’t completely erase, but Karel assures that the more positive posts associated with you there are, the lower down in search results those negative posts will be. “Create accounts on professional networking and portfolio building sites like LinkedIn,, Google+ and CareerBuilder so that those profiles come up in search results,” says Karel. “Having profiles on these sites will make you more relevant and give you a more strategic, professional online presence.”

Karel points out that it’s important to understand that you can still have a personal side, and you should show that on your social networking sites. “People want to see the human side of you,” she says. “Incorporating personal elements on social media helps you build your brand.” Karel recommends taking advantage of privacy settings on your personal accounts so that you are only sharing appropriate and brand-relevant content publicly. You should also be checking the sites’ privacy terms and policies monthly and updating your settings as necessary.

Since we live in a digital world, your online life can be just as important to potential employers as your skills and qualifications. Make sure you are doing an audit of your online image, cleaning it up if necessary and being proactive about portraying yourself positively and professionally.

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