Is your social media footprint employer-friendly? With 91% of employers checking social media to screen potential job candidates, according to research from Reppler and Lab42, your past (and present) exploits may not be as “hidden” as you’d like to believe. Upon receiving a candidate resume, nearly half (47%) of all employers check social media profiles to evaluate a potential hire’s personality and character. Sixty-nine percent of employers have even rejected a job candidate based on information they found about them from social media.

For companies that do use social media to screen employees, 65% say they do so because they want to see if a job seeker is presenting him or herself professionally, according to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive. Half of all employers (51%) want to know if a candidate is a good fit for their company culture. Other reasons for employers monitoring social media include “to see if the candidate is well-rounded” and – potentially most distressing for would-be hires – “to look for reasons not to hire the candidate.”

Over the last five years, I’ve watched social media profiles play an increasingly important role in both the job recruitment and hiring process. Recently, I worked with a mid-level executive and was surprised to discover the not-suitable-for-work photos the executive posted on Facebook. Worse, this individual accepted friend requests from co-workers, which meant everyone at the company also had access to these inappropriate photos leading to workplace notoriety. That’s a definite social media misstep!

Whether you’re addicted to Instagram or just occasionally update LinkedIn, as a job seeker, here’s what you need to know about employers and social media:

Treat social media as your digital brand. Your digital brand goes beyond your LinkedIn page. Be sure that Facebook, Twitter, etc. are free from potentially embarrassing images and affiliations. Take down anything that an employer would consider unprofessional. While cleaning up your social media profile, don’t forget to quickly Google yourself. You may be surprised by what you find in the search results!

Don’t be invisible. Job seekers who are invisible online may be at just as great a disadvantage as job seekers with unprofessional social media profiles. Bolster your personal brand by strengthening professional affiliations, sharing your expertise and participating in constructive online discussions.

Be an industry thought leader. If you choose to share content publicly on social media, be sure that this information works to your advantage. Share content that positively showcases your professional accomplishments and qualifications. Curate interesting and relevant content – and be sure to share your own comments or insights when posting this material.

Great things on social media can work in your favor. In fact, 68% of companies surveyed by Reppler and Lab42 report offering candidates a job because of something positive they saw about them on social media.

Have you edited or hidden content on social media before a job interview? If you’re a hiring manager, do you check social media before making an offer? Share your experiences.