According to a recent CareerBuilder study, 70% of employers check their job candidates’ social media profile. Naturally, they’re looking to see the degree of professionalism a candidate projects although depending on the role, employers may be scouting for other skills like excellent communication, demonstration of sound judgment, and the ability to be brand conscious. Social media is so ubiquitous these days that you better believe a hiring manager is likely to conduct a simple search of your online presence, so be mindful about what you post and how you engage with others.
Yes, it is legal for employers to check prospective employees’ social media profiles; however, sensitive information is off-limits for hiring criteria, including a person’s race, ethnicity, religious background, disability, and other factors, like pregnancy. However, one’s observable online behaviors can be reason enough for an employer to think twice before hiring you.
Some social media platforms, like LinkedIn, exist as a way to network professionally, meaning that if we apply for a job, we likely expect the hiring manager to skim through our LinkedIn profile. Other platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, tend to be more personal spaces. While keeping your information private on these channels may be a good choice, in the digital age we live in, it’s extremely difficult to completely erase your presence from the face of the internet. For that reason, it’s better to engage with social media intentionally and with forethought.
Social Media Mistakes to Avoid
If you’re giving thought to how you present yourself on social media, here are several mistakes to avoid:
- Immaturity and cruelty: It seems like common sense, but in a world where we have become increasingly comfortable sharing some curated version of ourselves online, it’s important to remember to avoid immature posts and comments. This includes references to drug use, illegal activity, or online bullying. If you find yourself regularly doxing people in comment sections, take a step back and evaluate what you gain by exhibiting this kind of carelessness or cruelty.
- Discrimination: Having the right to free speech does not allow you to engage in discrimination, even on your own social pages, without repercussion. If an employer finds evidence of racism, sexism, or bigotry, they are well within their own rights to refuse you the job.
- Bad-mouthing previous employer: If a potential employer notes that you posted a series of comments about an old employer, it doesn’t bode well. This kind of behavior shows poor impulse control and decision making. Regardless of the situation, if you bad-mouth and rant about a past employer online, future employers may feel less inclined to trust you and are more likely to develop concern that you’ll do the same to them down the road if they elect to hire you.
- Bad grammar: There is a time and place for casual internet chit-chat and lingo, but that place isn’t necessarily on LinkedIn. Even on other channels, be aware of language, spelling, grammar, and use of obscenities, as these things can inadvertently impact someone’s impression of you.
Social Media Is a Place for Authenticity, Not Carelessness
For some people, they consider social media to be a place where they can be authentic, and in many ways, that is true. You should be able to curate whatever image of yourself that you’d like; however, the reality is that in creating a social media presence, you make yourself visible to others and open yourself up to critique. Be mindful of how you post, and choose to share content thoughtfully and intentionally. Decorum can be easily lost when communicating from behind a screen, so remember while your Twitter profile might feel abstract, it can and does affect your “real” life and others’.