Social media. For some it has been a godsend. An escape into a virtual world where you can let off steam, play games, and share your favorite photos. Unfortunately, all good things have side effects.

For those who have decided to leave entrepreneurship behind and return to the workforce, securing a position is sometimes difficult. Many people are finding that failure to secure a position with a company is coming down to their social media activity.

More and more employers are doing background checks on applicants and current employees by visiting their social networks. Before you start sending out job applications, clean up your social media accounts. You will want to delete anything you think could show you in a bad light.

Businesses can make stupid mistakes on social media that turn off potential customers. In the same way, people can make stupid mistakes that turn off potential employers.

Don’t believe that companies will check your social media profile? Guess again. A  career builder survey found that 37% of companies use social networks to research job candidates.

“I would think that number is actually much higher,” Brad Schepp, co-author of How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, said in a 2012 interview “If you were a recruiter, or a hiring manager for a company, wouldn’t you check out a potential hire through LinkedIn? Or, if you were hiring a recent grad, it would almost surely occur to you to visit their Facebook profile.”

So what are employers looking for? There are a number of things, but according to Time’s Jacob Davidson, things such as illegal drug activity, sexual references, and profanity are a few of the top turnoffs.

LinkedIn should be your first stop

The one profile you need to concentrate on the most is your LinkedIn profile. Make sure it is up-to-date, as it will likely be looked at more than your resume. A LinkedIn profile is free and you can even find a job through the site, using your profile to apply for various positions with the click of a button.

A while back, I obtained expert advice on how to clean up (or create) a LinkedIn profile. Some of the best tips included fully completing your summary and job history, and adding a professional headshot.

Make sure to clean up the other accounts

But LinkedIn is not your only concern. Remember the time you left a negative comment about the “other” political party? How about that time you accidentally posted the “wrong” picture and failed to remove it from your feed? Well, these are things that can come back to haunt you.

It is highly recommended that you clean up anything that could be considered controversial. However, don’t whitewash your social media profile. This means that removing too much can make it seem like you don’t have any character, which could be just as bad as having a ton of baggage.

“There’s a sense that a profile with no character has probably been scraped of some racy stuff or else the person has no social skills and won’t fit in,” writes Forbes‘s Meghan Casserly, discussing why you shouldn’t have a squeaky clean social media profile.

The point is have a social profile that reflects a generally normal person, not a bizarre person or someone without social skills. Potential employers need to know you are alive but that you have nothing to hide.

Final thoughts

Not every employer is going to check your social media profile; however, I would anticipate that many of them do. In fact, anticipate that all will be looking and take the time to clean things up.

Source: Forbes