Here are 5 ways social media can cost you a job, and 7 ways it can help you land one.

3 minute read

Think what you say online doesn’t matter? It might come back to haunt your job search.

Seven out of ten employers use social media to screen potential job candidates, says a study from CareerBuilder. And 57 percent have found content that caused them not to hire them.

Clearly, employers are looking at you online, and how you behave could make or break your job prospects. So before you post another selfie or comment on President Trump’s latest tweet, make sure you know these social media do’s and don’ts…

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1. Don’t capture your wild night out

Dressing for success is rule No.1 for a job interview, but if the hiring manager has already seen you running around a party holding a cocktail with a lampshade for a hat on your Facebook profile, it won’t matter how pressed your suit is.

Never post incriminating photos online – even holding a drink is enough to get you canned in some professions. And if you aren’t sure if that photo counts as incriminating, Keith R. Wyche, former CEO of ACME Markets and an author and public speaker, says to abide by this golden rule: “Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want on the front page of USA Today or The Wall Street Journal.”

2. Lock down your gun collection

In 2010, Gloria Gadsden, an assistant professor at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, was fired after changing her status update to, “Does anyone know where I can find a very discrete [sic] hitman? Yes, it’s been that kind of day,” according to the Village Voice.

Joking about hitmen is clearly a bad idea. Posting about a crime – even as a joke – could give an employer reason to pass you over. In the survey, 30 percent reported passing over a candidate who was linked to criminal behavior.

3. Not everyone laughs at dirty jokes

While your friends may laugh at your off-color humor, the recruiter checking out your profile probably won’t. According to the CareerBuilder poll, 40 percent of surveyed employers frown on those dirty jokes you’ve been sharing on Facebook.

4. Don’t break bad

According to The Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee, a 911 dispatcher was fired after saying on Facebook she was addicted to “Vicodin, Adderall, quality marijuana, MD 20/20 grape and absinthe.”

All legal trouble aside, talking about drugs, drug use, or even legalization issues may get you passed over. Thirty-six percent of CareerBuilder’s respondents reported having negative reactions to drug-related posts.

5. Don’t ruin things for future you

When you’re sharing online, be careful what you’re saying today won’t cause a recruiter to skip over you in the future. Wyche says, “You don’t want to give the recruiter those reasons to eliminate you from contention.” For example, “avoid discussions on relocation choices.”

If you mention you’ll never leave your hometown, a recruiter might skip over you for a great job that could involve relocating.

6. Don’t trash-talk the boss

This is possibly the worst thing you could do: badmouth your boss or the company you work for. While a few state laws have been passed to protect you from being fired for expressing your opinion on Facebook, it certainly won’t help you get a raise or a promotion.

Sure, many bosses don’t have the time to keep up with their employees’ online lives, Wyche concedes. But he warns that more and more employers are setting alerts “to be notified when your company’s name is mentioned in a tweet or a post on social media.”

And if your current boss never sees the post, your potential boss might – and that “sends a signal to a potential employer that you might be a negative presence,” Wyche says.

What you should do

Now that you know what not to do, here are a few tips on getting it right…

  • Choose the right social networks: Not all social networks are ideal for job hunting. Wyche recommends LinkedIn and TheLadders. If you’re a senior-level job seeker, try BlueSteps.
  • Don’t rely on security preferences: Facebook’s ever-changing security rules might not keep your photos and posts hidden.
  • Clean up your act: Recruiters are likely to search through your profiles, not just read your current posts. Spend an afternoon scanning your history and deleting anything questionable.
  • Keep your resume up-to-date: If you have your resume online, add the link to your Twitter account.
  • Talk to people: Sites like LinkedIn are a great networking tool, and most people are surprisingly approachable. If you’re dreaming of working at a particular company, find someone who works there and ask them about it.
  • Post often: The more you share, retweet, and post, the more people you’ll connect with, and that can lead to some big career moves.
  • Don’t stop after the interview: Many interviewers check out social networking profiles after interviewing someone. So keep posting – responsibly.
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About the Author

Angela Colley

Angela Colley

Angela Colley is a freelance writer based in New Orleans and an expert at the fine art of renting apartments. And it IS an art.

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