Sanitize Your Web Presence Before Applying for a Job

Instead of only having to worry about putting your best face forward on interview day, candidates now should be concerned with what they post or is posted about them online. Many employers now search social media and other sites for information about their job candidates, which can sometimes make or break whether you land the position or not. Before you begin applying for jobs, clean up your imagine online so your potential employer doesn’t come across a post or image that could take you out of the running.


  1. Search for yourself. Instead of just looking in the “usual” places (such as your Facebook profile), find out what appears when you do an Internet search for your name.
    • Look under “everything” first. Try several search engines, but consider looking for “everything” which includes all web sites, news articles, images, videos, blogs and reviews. You may have no idea that a friend snapped an “incriminating” photo of you during that crazy drunken night and somehow it ends up online.
    • Check for your name under other aliases. Especially if you have changed your name after getting married or if you have a nickname, make sure you leave no stone unturned. Conduct the same search as you did under your proper name to ensure you’ve covered your basis.
    • Seek out reviews. If you provide any type of service there’s a good chance someone has written a review about the work you’ve done. Consider Yelp, Google Groups, Urban Spoon (if you work in the food industry) or possible industry based forums. While there may be nothing you can do about negative comments, you can add positive entries under another alias to hopefully offset anything negative.
  2. Check your social network. After you’ve explored the “unknown” by searching for yourself, check your “known” aspect and dig deeply into what you’ve done on social networks.
    • Stop by your Facebook and Twitter profile to examine comments and photos. This may mean that you have to go back into your history to ensure nothing terrible was written about you or that you didn't write something highly inappropriate. Follow links to friend’s pages where you commented in addition to reviewing your “info” page. You want to make sure that your presence would be appealing and acceptable to anyone who reads it. That means no religion, politics or inappropriate comments (basically anything that would be considered to be inappropriate for a child to read should be removed).
    • Visit friends or family member profiles who may have tagged or referenced you in posts. Unfortunately its not just what you’ve posted, but what others have posted about you too. It may be an arduous process, but go through your friend list and conduct a quick check of your friend’s profiles and search for any references (visual or verbal) about you. If you find a detrimental comment or image, send your friend a private message and ask if that comment could be removed. Let the friend know why so he/she understands the importance.
    • Consider “check ins” as possible problems. If your friend recently “checked in” at the local strip club and said he/she was with you that could be a problem to a potential employer.
  3. Evaluate your privacy settings. Don’t allow your pages to be accessible to everyone on the social network. Carefully review your settings and all privacy controls.
    • Don’t allow others to see your friend lists. People can glean a lot of knowledge about who you are based on your friends. If you have some immature or inappropriate friends on your friend list, you may not want potential employers seeing this. Block the ability for others to view your friend list to eliminate that problem.
    • Only share photos and comments with a certain group of people. Enact full controls on photos and only allow for family friendly photos to be viewed by all.
    • Only allow friends or family members to see any activity on your profile. If you enact full privacy settings, outsiders should not be able to see activity on your profile.
  4. Create a new image for yourself online. Once you’ve sanitized what was on the Internet, it’s time to build a new image that employers will appreciate and will add credibility to your interview.
    • Be proactive with sites like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a well traveled site for many employers and human resources professionals. Be sure you upload your resume and include new kudos or accolades to your LinkedIn profile. Consider this network to be your online portfolio and invest time into making your profile outstanding.
    • Consider “re-doing” your Facebook or Twitter profile. If your Facebook or Twitter accounts are a mess, consider closing your pages and re-opening a new account. Starting fresh will also give your prospective employer little to go on and see you as you’d like them to see you--a professional.
    • Evaluate your friends or network. Be cautious about who you “friend” or “follow” when it comes to making an impression on a potential employer. If your immature cousin insists on making jokes about boogers on your page you may want to leave him off your list.


  • Understand that sometimes you may miss an embarrassing image or post. Have a game plan if your potential employer comes across this post and asks you about it. A comment about being young or your sister’s bachelorette party may do the trick if your prospective employer seems to have a sense of humor.
  • Use a private browsing experience like Chrome's incognito mode or Safari's in-private browsing when searching for yourself online in order to remove any bias from search engines; that way, your search results will likely be closer to what any prospective employer might see if he or she were to type in your name.


  • Never post anything that refers to illegal or unlawful activity. Not only will this turn off employers but also could possibly be used against you in a court of law.

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