Marc Bourne is the vice president and co-founder of Know It All Intelligence Group, a nationwide employment screening and corporate investigations firm. He regularly speaks to youth organizations regarding the pitfalls of social media, and he offered these tips for protecting your online image.
A Note From Marc Bourne: Now, more than ever, social media background checks are being used as a piece of the screening puzzle to determine the character of a candidate. Colleges, universities, private and public employers are all starting to see that there is a wealth of valuable information available about their applicants on the Internet.
The best thing about this information is that not only is it written in the applicant's own words, but oftentimes there is photographic "evidence" of the debauchery as well. Yes, that's right -- you may be Facebooking, Tweeting, YouTubing and Instagramming your way right out of a job.
Well, there are some steps that you can take right now to make sure you don't end up being your own worst enemy when a social media background check is done on you.
|Do an Online Search of Yourself|
Enter your name, usernames and email addresses into the most popular search engines, such as Google and Bing, to see what information is out there. If there are any old accounts or profiles that you don't use anymore that are showing up, contact the provider to delete your account. For example, when you were young, you may have used MySpace or Friendster, but unless you have deleted those accounts, they will stay linked to you forever.
|Privacy Is Your Friend|
All social networking sites have privacy controls to allow your content to be shielded to the general public. Set all of your accounts to private and limit access to select friends only. A private employer or university most likely will not ask you for a username and password to access your private information. In fact, there are laws popping up around the country to make it illegal to ask for your log in information in an employment setting.
Don't go on a spur of the moment rant about a customer, boss or co-workers. Don't badmouth the company that you work for or its management style. New employers will see that and think that if you did that to a previous employer, at some point you will do it to them too.
|Guilty by Association or WWGT?|
Remember "What Would Grandma Think?" before posting any of your photos online for all to see. This includes any photos that your friends may have "tagged" you in. If a tagged photo does pop up, immediately remove the tag and send a note to your friend asking your friend to remove the tag. Also, friends that post inappropriate things can be linked to you. Delete any people who do unsuitable things online or things that may call your morals and integrity into question.
|Don't Mix Business and Personal Relationships|
Use Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites for the personal part of your life. To keep in contact with your co-workers, bosses or other business contacts, use LinkedIn, which is made specifically for business networking, or other such business-oriented websites.
Your work and education history that you post online should match what you put on your paper resume. Inconsistencies can lead a company to believe that you are being deceptive.
The most important and best way to protect yourself from social media background checks is to promote yourself. Most employers and universities are looking for reasons to accept you, not pass over you, so put your best attributes out there for all to see. Post positive content such as promotions, accolades, awards, charity work. Make sure that when you post that content, you are making that specific post public. When someone does a search on you, all of your positive attributes will show up, making you a viable candidate.
For more information, visit Bourne's company's website, www.knowitallgroup.com.