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Clean Up Your Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is a term used to describe the trail, traces, or "footprints" one leaves on the internet. These "footprints" can come from a variety of sources, including social media, blog posts, email correspondences, videos or images, or any other digital information transmitted over the internet. As it relates to your job search, it is common for employers or hiring managers to search the internet for information about job applicants before hiring them.

Tips for cleaning up your digital footprint

Here are some ways to ensure that your digital footprint will help - and not hurt - your odds of obtaining employment.

  • Conduct an online search of yourself by using your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, etc.) Search for your name and other terms that will help narrow your search (the name of your town, schools you have attended, previous employers, organizations you belong to, etc.). Scroll down through the first four pages of results to see what appears. This will give you a preview of what a hiring decision maker may find about you.
  • Conduct additional searches of yourself on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts you've created.
  • Look for any inconsistencies between your resume and your online presence, and remove or update conflicting information.
  • If you find content that might concern an employer about your judgment, maturity, integrity, or ability to get along with team members, make an effort to remove that content. Here’s a simple rule to follow: Don't allow anything on the internet that you wouldn't want 5,000 strangers to see or know about you.
  • Examples of content to remove:
    • photos of you and your friends drinking, wearing inappropriate clothing, or engaged in questionable behavior
    • inappropriate comments by your friends
    • profanity
    • discussions about using alcohol or drugs
    • negative comments about current or previous employers or coworkers
    • slang or discriminatory comments about racial or ethnic groups
  • If you have posted articles, blog entries, samples of your writing, or other web content, make sure they reflect your best self. That includes checking your grammar and spelling.
  • Use the privacy settings on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites to restrict access to only your trusted friends. If you choose to permit anyone to access your special media sites:
    • check Your "likes," and "unlike" any page, movie, band, or other content that might cause a negative first impression.
    • restrict tagging to prevent a friend or acquaintance from tagging you in a comment or photo that will cast you in a questionable light.

After following these tips for cleaning up your digital footprint, you should be prepared to make a good impression on employers or hiring managers who happen to search for you on the internet. Throughout your job search process, it is recommended that you conduct these activities once every couple of weeks. It is important, too, that your digital footprint remain a strong reflection of your best self, even after you land the job you are looking for. Employers may conduct such investigations even after you are hired. As a best practice, plan to monitor your digital footprint monthly, and update or remove content as needed to ensure a favorable online image.