By Steven Perryman Career Don’t let a social network ruin your job prospects 5 Jan 2012 Decided that a new job is high on your new year’s resolution list? Then make sure you don’t let embarrassing posts or photos on a social network ruin your chances. You’ve spotted your dream job, updated your CV, fired off an application and…bingo! You’ve been invited to an interview. You prep hard for the big day itself, researching every nook and cranny of your dream employer. You’re all set to land the job, right? Wrong. What about your online profile? Did you bother to check it? If you didn’t, then you could be in big trouble because there’s a strong chance that your prospective employer has been trawling social networking sites to find out what you’re really like. The practice of employers running online background checks on prospective job candidates is one that has grown rapidly over the past few years. In 2006, a survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 11% of hiring managers used social networking sites to research potential candidates. Two years later, that figure stood at 22%. Today, the figure is forecast to be higher still. And while once this ‘research’ might have entailed a simple trawl through Google to find incriminating evidence, many businesses are now employing specialist companies, such as California-based Social Intelligence Corp, to run comprehensive social media background checks on potential employees and, in some cases, existing employees. It’s an incredibly contentious issue. A civil liberties debate is currently raging in the US after an applicant for a job in a prison was forced to divulge his Facebook login details during the interview so that a background check could be undertaken. Social network benefits So, should you clean up your Twitter feed, delete those YouTube videos of your debauched night out on the town and change your Facebook privacy settings right now? Not necessarily. While unsavoury content posted on social networking sites could hinder your chances of getting a job, if you use these sites in the right way, it can strengthen your application. For instance, 36% of respondents to the CareerBuilder.com survey said that if a candidate’s social media profile page conveyed a professional image, it would help solidify their decision to hire them. And great references posted by others through channels such as LinkedIn would persuade 31% of hiring managers to give someone a job. So the general rule of thumb is: do get former workmates to give you a glowing testimonial; join relevant industry or business networking groups on Facebook and LinkedIn; be careful about what you post on social media sites that can be openly accessed by other people; and if you’re worried about what other people might be saying about you, monitor your name through a service such as Google Alerts. Looking for your next job in finance/accountancy? Check out AAT Jobs Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.