'One search away': Clear your social media history or risk not being hired, expert warns

Potential employees’ online ‘footprint’ might sway employers opinion to the point where they might hire someone else, one social media expert warns, but there are ways job-seekers can do some preemptive damage control.

“We’re one search away from an opportunity actually escaping us,” Mohit Rajhans, co-founder of digital consulting firm Think Start Inc., told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday, stressing the importance of conducting so-called digital audits of your presence online.

Companies are fiercely protective of their brand and are now more eager than ever to know the digital histories of new hires, as well as existing employees they’re trying to let go.

To avoid having your “digital footprint” becoming a liability, Rajhans said the name of the game ought to be: “staying positive and staying private.”

Nearly every social media platform has privacy settings which limit what is publicly searchable. Find the settings and change them if they’re not strict enough, he said.

Going forward, he urged people to only share certain Facebook posts to your friend list; put personal Instagram pages on private; use the Close Friends sharing featuring on IG stories; lock your Twitter feed; and have separate social media accounts – one for the public and another only accessible by people you approve.

“It’s a good idea -- especially if your business requires a lot of your effort and your thought leadership – to really separate the personal from the professional.”

He reminded people that most sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have features in their settings which allow you to also download all the data attached to your profile.

So Rajhans said it’s also good idea to do that and take stock of what’s out there. "Understand how your data is being used on social media and how it’s being linked to.”

PEOPLE CAN ALTER ALGORITHIRM SOMEWHAT: RAJHANS

Rajhans said the recent approach by many Generation X and Millennial folks has been to share a lot. But now there’s been a shift, led by post-Millennials, to “really focus on what their online identity is, to prevent problems in the future.”

But with some people having three decades worth of social media out there, unfortunately, a lot of what comes up on Google or Facebook searches may seem beyond users’ control.

“When people include us in conversations via blogs or professional things that we do, those are also tagged as part of our footprint,” Rajhans said. “You could be captured in many different ways and places that don’t necessarily completely go on-brand with you right now.”

So, he said to do an immediate triage of your online persona: delete those embarrassing photos you posted years back; ask that friend to remove the tag of you from their picture galleries; and delete that tweet of a belief you no longer hold or one that you don’t want people to know publicly.

“You won’t be able to erase certain things but my [encouragement] to you is clean up your algorithm yourself,” Rajhans said, explaining this can be done simply by posting “better stuff online.”

“Start to feed what you want people to see about you -- in the context that you want people to see,” he said, noting that people should post new tweets, IG posts or blogs which better showcase themselves.

For example, for those who work with coding, beef up your presence on sites such as GitHub. But what he said most of us can do is create or overhaul LinkedIn pages, so that it becomes one of the first things that pop up when strangers Google you.

“Use that as the prime focus that people are able to find you in. And the other stuff starts to get buried.