These days an online profile is simply a part of life, but it’s important to consider what it says about you. Even if you don’t post on social media, your friends or family might mention you in their posts, or you might appear on your employer’s website.
That means it’s a good idea to understand how much people can see online – even if you use privacy settings – so you can put your best foot forward with potential employers and housemates.
What can people see about you?
Employers are no longer just going by the polished resume you submitted. As part of their standard recruiting practice, many HR managers will run a check of your online profile. That means they can uncover the things you have posted online, but also posts others have put about you, like comments or tags. If the thought of this makes you break out in a sweat, it’s probably time to tidy up your internet footprint.
So, what might potential employers see? A Google search of your name will uncover things like photos and comments you’ve posted to social media sites like Facebook or Google+ (including comments and ‘likes’ of your friends’ posts and photos) and photos you have been tagged in.
Apart from social media sites, a Google search might also pick up pages where your name is mentioned like news stories and blog posts (including the comments sections), websites of previous employers or schools, and your employment history through sites like LinkedIn. All up, it adds up to quite a bit more than what’s on your CV.
If you want to know what other people can see, log out of your account and then visit your pages, or use tools like the ‘View as’ dropdown menu in Facebook.
Polish your online profile
So, you’ve looked online and found the photos of your crazy 21st birthday party, or your angry rant about your last boss. Don’t worry, there are some easy steps you can take to spruce up your profile.
- Take stock of your online accounts. Deactivate any you don’t need and remove unwanted content from those you want to keep.
- Adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts to restrict who can see your profile. Each site has instructions to help you manage your privacy settings (for example: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter), but this is not watertight. On most sites you can’t control who sees your comments or likes on public posts. Plus, there’s nothing stopping people taking screenshots or downloading photos from your profile and sharing them without your permission.
- If there are search results you’re not happy with, follow Google’s instructions to have images and information removed, where possible, or hidden.
- Post new, good content to push the old content to the bottom of the search results.
- You don’t have to use your real name on social media – use a nickname or create a fun username instead.
- Set up a Google alert to monitor and manage new mentions of your name.
Most importantly, think before you post. If it’s not something you’re happy for the world to see, don’t post it in the first place.
Keep your LinkedIn profile honest
Of course employers will check your LinkedIn profile, so make sure it’s truthful and up-to-date. Potential employers have their own tools to verify your qualifications, professional memberships, work entitlement, employment history and references. Don’t ruin your chances with an online fib that may come back to haunt you.
Protect your personal details
Another reason to keep your online profile in order is to avoid identity theft and fraud. If someone has your personal details, they can try to apply for a credit card or passport in your name. Here’s how you can reduce your chances.
- Don’t list personal details such as your birthday, address or phone number online.
- Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts, and restrict access to trusted people.
- Don’t accept friend requests from strangers on social media. There may be exceptions, such as LinkedIn or Twitter, although even then, use your common sense.
- Make passwords hard to guess and change them regularly. Enable two-step authentication where possible.
- Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.
- If you need advice on dealing with identity fraud, visit the Australian Federal Police website.
If you want to find out more about how to verify your personal information, visit CVCheck.