Careers author James Innes warns school leavers getting their A-level results today of the impact of their social footprint on looking for work.

IT’S a fact of our time that most of us are social media addicts. Young people hardly put their iPhones down and it seems we now do everything on our smart phones. In this day and age, we all leave behind a digital footprint in some shape or form – it’s quite unavoidable. The longer you’ve been online the bigger it will be.

Unfortunately, this social footprint can work against us and this is more evident when school leavers start job hunting. Many, will fall at the first hurdle as they misunderstand the role their social media imprint has on their job search.

It is a fact that 70 per cent of recruiters searched online to see what they could find on a candidate before making a hiring decision. But it seems the millennial generation have ignored this fact and continue to ignore the impact of their social footprint.

I can’t stress how important it is for young people to clean their social media making it more acceptable to employers and helping hand in the jobs search process rather than a hindrance.

In my eyes a “Social Scrub” is a dive into that digital world to see what we can dig up while searching on various search engines like Google and Bing as well as on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to name a few. Cleaning your social media could be the difference between getting that dream job and being shown the door.

A social scrub will essentially give you peace of mind against recruiters looking at your online presence. Not forgetting their search isn’t limited to just your LinkedIn profile; your Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are all scrutinised by prospective employers the second you send in your CV. Your email address and name will be pasted into search engines and everything you have ever put on the internet will be right in front of them.

It would be a shame if you lost the job because of that drunken photo you took during your holidays. Or that controversial post you made on a forum five years ago.

With so many recruiters searching online to see what they could find on a candidate before making that hiring decision, it is imperative to be aware of what is and isn’t being publicly shared and accessible online when it comes to getting hired.

Rise of LinkedIn in job search

A LinkedIn profile has become all but a requirement nowadays, and this has worn away at some of the labour and anti-discrimination laws. These laws prevented employers from requesting personal information, but via your LinkedIn profile, you are actively and willingly providing some of that information; this is especially true when it comes to including a photo on your profile.

LinkedIn profiles with professionally taken and edited photos are more likely to get noticed and, in turn, get you hired. This is because profiles without photos are perceived to be fake accounts. Additionally, the way LinkedIn works, they favour “complete” accounts and uploading a photo is a requirement for a complete profile. As their own research has shown, accounts with a photo are 21 times more likely to be viewed and also nine times more likely to receive connection requests.

Dangers of your social imprint

Your online presence doesn’t just start and end with LinkedIn though – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube are but a few of the most popular social media sites online at the moment. Not to mention all the long-forgotten platforms like MySpace and Google+.

So do you have any inappropriate pictures online? How about messages left on forums?

During a Social Scrub, we should try to find any and all inappropriate posts/messages that you may or may not have known you left online. Nothing is perfect, and as we sometimes find out, the internet is forever, so tread lightly.

You can never be 100 per cent secure online, as we saw earlier this year when Google announced it would be shutting down Google+. Both Google and a Wall Street Journal exposé found that over 500,000 users’ data had been exposed.

Facebook also experienced a hack this year that saw 30 million accounts become vulnerable. Even if you had your privacy settings configured correctly, this hack allowed the attackers to get everything from the system, like username, gender, location, language, relationship status, religion, hometown, date of birth just to name a few.

Finally, it might not be a hacker that causes you damage, it might very well be the platform. Platforms are looking online as well to see what you are doing and if you are playing by their set of rules. If they don’t like what they see and see you “stepping out of line” you could see yourself de-platformed, leaving you in a weaker position than your peers when it comes to competing online.