Skip to Content

How to Do a Social Media Background Check On Yourself

If there is a job search in your near future, cleaning up your social media is likely a priority. Transitioning into a professional role after college or need to pad your resume between career moves? Either way, you can expect that hiring managers will be looking at your Facebook page and Instagram stories.

In fact, in some industries, an overwhelming 76 percent of businesses use social media to screen applicants. From cleaning up your pages to ensuring your privacy settings are optimal, here’s how to do a social media background check on yourself.


How to Perform a Social Media Screening on Yourself

Although you might think you have your social media pages secure and set to private, it’s worth another look if your career is on the line. Take the following steps to get ready for a job search and ensure your information won’t hamper your efforts.


Run a Search Engine Sweep

Googling yourself, or using another web search engine, is a smart way to see what information is out there about you. Use a private browsing window, often termed “incognito”, to avoid biased search results from filtering through. This way, you can see what a third party would see if they searched for your name for the first time.

If any adverse information or photos of you come up in a Google search, you may need to act. If a website has private information about you, contact them to have it removed. In some cases, you may need to take legal action to prompt the removal of private details or images.

There are also professional services that “scrub” your information from the internet, which is another option for clearing your online activity.


Check Social Media Pages

For many of us, social media pages are the first results to come up on Google or any other search tool. But let’s say that your current social media activity spans just Facebook and LinkedIn. Then you might be surprised to find that your Myspace account from 2004 is still active—and sharing embarrassing photos of your teen years.

A peremptory Google search should pull up all your social media pages. By viewing the pages as an “outsider,” you can see what is available to the public. However, many social media sites—such as Facebook and Snapchat—require you to log in to view content.

Some platforms give you an option to view your page as other people can see it. You may be unable to see your social media pages from the anonymous browser option. In this case, using each site’s viewing tool can give another perspective. But once you see how your profile appears to other users, what should you do about it?


How to Prepare Your Social Media for a Job Search

Getting ready for a job search involves more than printing out copies of your resume. In the digital age, cleaning up your online presence is another part of the to-do list. Here’s how to prepare your social media account for a job search, after following the exploratory steps above.


Maintain Consistent & Professional Profile Photos

When you view your social media pages, how does your profile picture appear? Is it a too-close-up of your face? A profile shot of your dog? Consider the professionalism of your image, swapping the photo for an alternative as necessary.

Ideally, your social media photo should focus on you and not a group of friends. No matter how many social networks you are present on, keep your photos consistent. Experts suggest keeping the same photo (or similar ones) for each platform to make yourself recognizable.

Expert advice for the ideal profile photo also includes industry-researched tips such as:

  • Smiling and showing your teeth
  • Dressing formally
  • Including your head and shoulders in the shot


Watch What You Post

In general, employers are looking for a competent and poised professionals to join their organizations. If your social media is not already on point, consider editing your data stream to suit. For example, you might post images of you and your friends at social outings often. But if you want to land a managerial-level job at a bank, you may want to tone down the party posts.

Take it a step further by following these guidelines for social media posting:

  • Limit what other people can post to your page/profile/stream. What other people think about you and how they interact can give prospective employers the wrong idea. Consider removing friends who post offensive content as well.
  • Think before posting and avoid sharing content that could be divisive or insensitive. Also avoid text or images that could be misinterpreted.
  • Don’t post about your current or previous job, boss, or coworkers in a negative light. Talking down on a former boss looks bad and suggests you don’t care about keeping things professional online.


Post the Right Things

A key reason many companies research job applicants is to see if they’re the right fit for the role. A potential employer might scan your LinkedIn profile to see if your connections have endorsed any of your skills. A hiring manager may read through some of your recent Facebook posts to see if you can communicate well online.

Whatever role they’re hoping to fill, know that organizations are seeking qualified candidates for each job. While you should be up-front about your skills and qualifications, it can help to add those items onto your social media profiles.

On Twitter, for example, you can include short phrases in your profile that indicate your professional strengths. If you work in marketing or social media itself, Instagram can be an excellent way to showcase your ability to #hashtag.

Making the right choices—before hitting “post”—is crucial to landing your next job and passing the employer’s social media pre-screen.


Show Your Expertise

Social media is mostly for friends and family, right? But many platforms lend themselves to professional sharing, too. LinkedIn is a clear example, but Facebook (pages or your personal account), Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube can be excellent tools for self-promotion.

Showing your expertise through social media can help you land a job and impress employers. Depending on your industry or desired career field, what you decide to share will vary. If you work in the creative industry, for example, you may want to share digital art samples you created. For the sales industry, highlighting your quarterly achievements might suffice.

Either way, posting about your professional accomplishments shows employers that your work is more to you than a day job.


Share Your Personality

Streamlining your social media profile pictures and descriptions is smart for a job search. But it’s not the only measure you can take toward encouraging organizations to hire (or at least interview) you. Showing your personality is an often-overlooked element of social media usage for job seeking. Being open about who you are—to an extent—can help you appear more likeable, a trait helpful for getting a foot in the door.


Other Aspects of Background Checks to Investigate

Social media is often one of the first methods employers use to find information on job applicants. But that doesn’t mean modern employers stick with only social platforms when seeking data. You should consider that most companies perform thorough background and credit checks before extending employment offers. Here’s what to look for on your own to prepare for a job search.


Survey Public Records and Have Answers Ready

Like a traditional background check, you should have answers ready for any discrepancies in your public records history. If you were involved in a court case at some point, regardless of the outcome, that information might be available in a simple web search.

In many areas, court records are free to obtain, whether online or in person. You should look up your name and find out what judgments there are against you.


Pay Off Traffic Debts

It may seem inconsequential, but unpaid traffic or parking tickets can impact employers’ perceptions of you. There is no law saying that a company can refuse to hire you if you have debt. But some financial and regulatory roles require spotless background checks.

Paying off even small debts like traffic tickets may help your odds of passing a background check with flying colors. If nothing else, it shows that you take care of business—and employers appreciate evidence of responsibility.


Check Your Credit

For many professional roles, good credit is not a requirement. However, some jobs—such as those with banks, financial institutions, or even casinos—require a clean credit report. Substantial debt may disqualify you for a position, so it’s helpful to know where you stand.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, you can obtain a free credit report once every 12 months. Alternatively, you can receive your credit score and report from your bank. Many phone applications and online services also offer credit reports for free as well.


Surviving Background Checks as a Job Seeker

Fortunately, background checks are nothing to worry about for most folks. Even social media screenings are helpful tools for companies to select the right candidate for each role. And at the end of the day, your exceptional social media status may help you land the job of your dreams.