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Employers do check Instagram before hiring someone & this is what they’re looking for

When job hunting, we often make a concerted effort to clean up our social media presence. After all, that’s a great place to start considering 70 percent of hiring managers screen candidates’ social media profiles, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey. And given that millennials use Instagram more than any other social media platform after Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center, it’s one of the first places an employer is going to look.

“Even if you’re an entry-level professional, your online presence is likely to be scrutinized,” Jackie Ducci, hiring expert and author of Almost Hired: What’s Really Standing Between You and the Job You Want, tells Mic. “Some candidates say, ‘My Instagram is personal. No employer should care or judge me based on what I post.’ Well, yes and no. The content you post on social media is a reflection of you as a person. And that becomes the employer’s business if anything you’ve put in full public view is in conflict with the company’s values.”

While it certainly pays to be more mindful of how you present yourself on the visual platform, Ducci notes you really never know what the other side is looking for. Your best bet is to be as authentic as possible while also remaining cognizant of your audience. Here’s how to strike that balance.

Swear with care

If you’re dropping F-bombs all over the place, chances are you’re fun at parties. And while we’re all in favor of presenting as genuine an identity as possible, you might want to keep the profanities to a minimum, since a recent study suggested you might be perceived as dishonest and less intelligent than your peers — or in this case, the other candidates.

“I say ‘fk’ a lot on Instagram,” Arielle Shnaidman, a brand story coach, tells Mic. “Most people curse. Of course, this doesn't mean your posts should be a thread of profanity. But sometimes curse words can be really expressive.”

Swear words aren't the only type language you should monitor. According to that same CareerBuilder survey, hiring managers don't want to see you badmouthing your former employer, sharing confidential information from your previous position, or discriminating against any race, gender or religion.

Don’t be too formal

No one wants to feel as though they're reading captions so formal they could have come from a robot. “When you don't use your unique voice, when you don't write how you speak, when you filter or curate what you say, you remove the humanity from your words, the very thing that makes you stand out and helps your audience connect with you,” says Shnaidman. If employers wanted to get a sense of who you were as a professional, they’d refer back to your resume.

It's not just how you write that matters, but your overall aesthetic. “If you’re applying to a start-up company that has a really relaxed vibe, someone who appears too buttoned up on social may actually turn that particular hiring team off,” says Ducci. On the flip side, it’s crucial to dress — or post — for the job you want. There's nothing wrong with hoodies and sweatpants, but Ducci says they wouldn’t fly if you’re applying for a job as a brand ambassador at a company that specializes in luxury products, since they’ll be looking for an element of maturity and sophistication on your feed.

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Don’t omit the fun stuff

And by fun stuff, we mean the illicit activities you wouldn’t dare do in front of your parents or priest. Behind the corporate jargon and pencil skirt, your employer is a human with hobbies and interests outside of work. Connect with them on that level, and you won’t only be a more memorable candidate during the hiring process, but a more likable colleague once you do get the job.

“If you want an employer who shares your values, and dirty jokes, a drink, and a joint here and there are a part of who you are and what you value, then omitting them from your Instagram isn't the right thing to do,” says Shnaidman. “Your Instagram is another channel for you to show the world who you are, the good and the imperfect.”

Of course, posting something taboo is a lot different than something that’s either against corporate policy or illegal, so use your judgment. A good rule of thumb is to gauge whether you’d feel comfortable sharing that information at a company gathering.

Don’t delete

If something you’ve posted in the past no longer reflects your current value system, use this opportunity to keep it on your feed and practice accountability and transparency. Whether it was a strangely worded caption or an incriminating photo, think about how you can reframe it to work to your advantage.

“One way to do this to share some posts about what you've noticed about your Instagram posts from the last year, what you like and didn't like, what you learned, and where you are today,” says Shnaidman. “Be vulnerable. Vulnerability is the key to connection. And the right company will see how brave that is.”

If you notice lots of sloppy partying photos from the previous year, for example, you might reflect on what was going on in your life at the time that compelled you to behave that way. And if you enjoyed the debauchery, explain how exciting it felt at the time. Whatever angle you're going for, lean into it with confidence.

Try Shnaidman’s tip for spinning questionable past posts: Pin an Instagram story to your feed directed towards potential employers, titled something like “Dear Employers.” In the video, introduce yourself and give a bit of background on who you are, acknowledging some of your risky posts. It shows a lot of integrity to admit you wanted to discuss those events instead of hiding from your truth, she adds.

Don’t be fake

But isn’t the point of Instagram to live out your fantasy life in front of all your followers? Well, sure, but it’s also probably going to make you feel more alienated and depressed, and likely prevent hiring managers from being able to connect with you on a deeper level.

Employers want to see a multidimensional human who’s capable of owning up to painful situations or bouts of discomfort. “The important thing here is to offer your unique point of view on the matter, how you're coping, or offer some solutions,” says Shnaidman. “No one wants a curmudgeon. They want problem solvers.”

Think of a public display of honesty about a painful situation as an audition for the job. You're likely to encounter plenty of challenges in the office, and they want to ensure you can handle them without crumbling.

Don’t disappear

Got something to hide? A padlock symbol on your Instagram account might prompt that question. While some folks understandably set their account to private for security reasons, it might be worth it to go public during the hiring process, if only to paint a more holistic view of who you are.

Similarly, according to that same CareerBuilder survey, hiring managers are 57 percent less likely to hire candidates who leave no trace on the internet. So, unless you’re the president, don’t delete your account.