Social media has put a lot of people’s jobs at risk.
Celebrities have been getting fired thanks to their use of social media: Roseanne Barr from the sitcom named after her, James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. Social media can even keep us from getting the job in the first place, such as with Connor Riley, who had a chance to start off her career at a global company with a “fatty paycheck.”
Until this happened:
These are examples of when people didn’t take to heart the old adage “don’t write anything down you wouldn’t want somebody to read.”
Social media affects our lives in much more subtle and nuanced ways, too. You don’t have to be a celebrity or extremely lacking in common sense for your social media activity to be hurting your job search and career in ways you don’t realize.
You’re Being Thoroughly Researched
In this day and age, an employer will research a candidate’s social media accounts before extending an offer – often even before reaching out for an interview. Some applicant tracking systems and recruiting tools automatically compile a candidate’s social profiles to give recruiters and hiring managers easy access.
Megan Spurr, Senior Group Lead Social Media Manager for JeffreyM Consulting & Microsoft is a social media expert who thoroughly researches potential hires for her highly competitive teams. Her main objective in researching a candidate isn’t just surface level. “I want to know who the applicant really is,” she says.
That’s exactly what social media should be when you’re looking for a job – a curated way to demonstrate who you are.
If you think you’re safe because you aren’t making light of major tragedies or posting nazi rhetoric, you might be wrong. There’s a lot of detail to social media that demonstrates who you are in ways that can negatively affect your chances of getting a job.
Social Media Demonstrates What You Value and How You Communicate
We’re not advocating to be someone you aren’t in order to fit a job – that’s a good way to hate your employer or team. But the fact of the matter is: you want a job. So you should know there’s nuances and context on social media that can make you lose job opportunities.
Be aware of things that communicate what you think, believe in, or support, and how that might affect your job chances. Spurr says, “Culture fit is as important as hard skills. So if you use Pepe the Frog, which is a cultural icon that goes against my core values, I’m not going to hire you. If you don’t fit with me and my team, you can’t work with us.”
This goes even further than misappropriated comic characters. Spurr also notes she considers spelling, grammar, associates, interactions, and the tone of applicants’ replies. Trolling, participating in rude arguments, and being unable to communicate well on social media are all things that employers will judge you on.
Fix Your Red Flags
If you have potentially problematic past tweets, delete them. It doesn’t matter if they were from high school, college, or that surprisingly wild Disney cruise, get rid of them. You can either scrub your own feed manually, or if you’re a prolific tweeter, invest in a bulk-delete tool like TweetDelete or TweetEraser. Make sure to do the same with Facebook and Instagram if you make public posts.
Nearly as harmful is having a social media profile that sends the wrong message not because of bad behavior, but because of ignorance. This can especially harm mature job seekers who might be incredibly experienced and competent at their work, but never learned basic social media set-up, social media etiquette, or personal branding.
Do Social Media Right
It can really be the simple things that make a massive difference on social media. Spurr points out, “If your profile picture isn’t of YOU, it makes it hard for me to relate to you.” So while your pets/kids/grandkids are probably adorable, when you’re job-hunting, put up a picture of yourself.
The same goes for group photos. “It’s like a Tinder profile,” Spurr advises. “You don’t want them to date your friends, you want them to date you.”
Think of social media like a faux-interview. You wouldn’t go halfway on your interview outfit, right? So don’t go halfway on your public social media profiles.
If you’re the type who shares 20 “inspirational” quotes, Minion images, and World Star videos a day on Facebook, lock your account down with privacy settings so employers don’t see you as oversharing at best and annoying at worst.
Alternatively, just don’t constantly share annoying content that doesn’t do anything for others at all. Maybe your Facebook friends like it or maybe they don’t, but Facebook friends can also be networking opportunities. How likely is a connection going to recommend someone who posts a picture of a naked Minion that says “like if you agree?”
Suffice to say, it can actually be better to have no social media than bad social media.
The only exception to this rule is LinkedIn. If you’re job searching, hiring managers and recruiters expect you to have a LinkedIn profile. It may be frustrating if you don’t “do” social media or prefer to keep your profiles as private as possible, but with over 87% of recruiters using LinkedIn, having a profile on the site is a must.
Here are some useful resources to do LinkedIn right:
Job Search Social Media Dos and Don’ts
- post anything you wouldn’t want an employer to read.
- participate in vicious arguments, flame wars, or mudslinging.
- share inflammatory or offensive content.
- share content from fringe sites.
- be ignorant of how social media works.
- post with good grammar and spelling.
- have a profile picture of yourself.
- post and share content you think is interesting or exciting.
- share content from respected outlets.
- delete past posts that reflect poorly on yourself.
Take the advice of Chicago Cub Jon Lester, who tweeted this after seeing so many of his baseball colleagues get in trouble recently because of their past tweets: “Please spend the 5 minutes it takes to scrub your account of anything you wouldn’t want plastered next to your face on the front page of a newspaper.”
He finished, “Better yet, don’t say stupid things in the first place. […] #themoreyouknow.”