The time has come: you’ve graduated from college, and you’re looking for your first job. Unfortunately, it has become difficult to come by a good entry-level job in many parts of the country. How can you make yourself stand out against the other graduates vying for the same jobs as you? By simply minimizing your online identity.
We all use the internet. Most of us post on various websites, upvote things on Reddit, write blogs, tweet, and share things by the dozen. This all creates a nice internet trail of your personality and what you’re like. When you start applying for jobs, it is a good idea to start maintaining your online identity. Why?
When employers are considering hiring you, they are going to take every measure they can to find out what you’re like. They will find you on Facebook and Twitter. They will connect with your LinkedIn profile. Worse yet, they will Google you in every way possible, finding any and all websites associated with your name or e-mail. For every piece of publicly available information on you, they will judge you. If you have your Facebook profile open where everyone can see your pictures and information, prospective employers will look at those pictures of you drinking with friends. Have you publicly tweeted how hilarious you found the Superbowl blackout? They will read that too – and know that you at least somewhat follow football.
Google can also reveal a large amount of information about you. By typing your name or e-mail address into Google, your prospective employer can discover most of your public profiles on websites. Websites like Reddit, Flickr, 500px, Twitter, My Fitness Pal, Youtube, Vimeo, message boards, and more. This can reveal a treasure trove of information about you. Your best bet is to make your profiles on all websites hidden or private.
For Facebook, click the Settings drop down menu, then click “Privacy Settings.” This is where you can lock down your page and keep outsiders from seeing anything. First, under the “Who can see my stuff?” heading, let’s limit your past posts. This will change all of your incredibly old posts from public to friends only. Then, under the “Who can look me up?” heading, make sure that only friends can look you up and that the search engines option is turned OFF. Now on the left side of the page, go to the Timeline and Tagging settings. Make sure everything on this page is set so that only your friends can do or see anything. I suggest selecting “No One” for tag suggestions on pictures to make sure nobody accidentally tags you in that drunken party photo they’re uploading.
Congratulations – your Facebook profile is now nice and tight without affecting how it works between you and your friends. But this is just the first step.
Now Google your name. Go through the first ten pages, and open every website listed that is affiliated with you. This is the difficult part – go to each of these sites, log in (if possible) and change any available privacy settings so that nobody other than your friends can find you and see things. This part will probably not take very long unless you’re famous or have a rather unique name as common names have a lot of unrelated results. If an employer can’t find anything on you in the first few pages of a search for your name, they probably won’t deem it worthwhile to continue looking.
Next, Google your e-mail address. Repeat the same process as before – opening all sites affiliated to you and changing the privacy settings for each site in the first ten search result pages.
For one final security measure, Google your past and current screennames and usernames. These are unlikely to be found, but if they are, they can reveal numerous old posts and pictures. You do not want this to happen, as those old posts and words may not represent who you are now and can be very detrimental to a prospective employer’s image of you. Do the same as before, but for the first three pages. This is entirely a precaution that should be taken but hopefully will not be tested.
For your LinkedIn, Monster, and other job-hunting website profiles, you want them very visible and updated. Have a friend take a good photo of you well dressed, and set it as your profile picture on all job hunting sites. Make sure you have all profiles up-to-date and tidy. After all, these are the things you actually want future employers to find. By keeping these visible and tidy while hiding all the old, icky junk, you’ll seem intelligent and clean.
You want prospective employers to find you intelligent and knowledgeable. Avoid posting or sharing anything that might be seen as offensive, and you’ll convey that you won’t disappoint any employers. Go through a cleansing cycle regularly, and you’ll have nothing to worry about when they start looking you up. After all, there is the commonly known adage that you don’t want to put anything into writing that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of a newspaper (or website).
A note: the best way to do this is not to make yourself completely invisible, but rather keep a positive presence online. So instead of drunken Instagram photos and pics, make a website for yourself that shows off your portfolio and talents.
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