There was a time, not very long ago, when the boundary line between your personal life and your work life was exactly as clear as you desired it to be. You had ultimate control over what your boss and co-workers were privy to, and you could be as private or as public as you wanted. Limited to what could be inferred from conversations and workplace interactions unless you desired more, your work persona and private life could very well never intersect.
Potential employers, they got even less. Your resume, your interview, references, and the random personality test here and there were the only clues he or she could get into who you really are and how you’d fit into the culture of the company and the role.
And then social media happened and those boundary lines went from blurry to fuzzy to nearly non-existent in the period of just a few years. The ability to keep your personal life separate from your work life is still within your control, but it’s a great deal more difficult now unless you chose to remain virtually non-existent in the social media megasphere. Regardless of the validity of your social media presence and how well it represents who you are in the workplace, it tells potential employers a lot about whether or not you are the right fit for their job.
And as a savvy job seeker, you should be very aware of this fact and adjust accordingly.
In a recent study, Careerbuilder found that 70% of employers use social media as a screening tool for potential job candidates.1 It’s become an invaluable resource to help interviewers decide if they want to offer you the job. Your potential employer is doing one thing when considering you as a candidate—assessing the risk of hiring you. It’s incredibly costly for companies to make a bad hire, so if they’re smart, they work doubly hard on the hiring side to ensure that ugly early turnover won’t happen.2 And social media gives companies an incredible edge when it comes to getting that ever-important glimpse into your cultural fit.
What do we do about this as diligent job seekers? Do we fly into a panic and delete all social media until we are firmly ensconced in the job of our dreams? The answer to that is a resounding “No!”
No social media of any kind is almost as damaging to a candidate as bad social media—with 60% of hiring managers reporting not calling a candidate in for an interview if they are unable to locate them on any medium.3
So what’s the answer?
The answer lies in crafting an overwhelming positive social media presence. It means looking closely at your posts and adjusting if there are any patterns that can negatively affect you as a candidate. Keep in mind that employers are looking to find out who you are and to be impressed with what they see when they search. They’re not trying to find reasons not to hire you. So don’t give them any.
If you have any of these red flags laced throughout your social media, clear them up, and you’ll be well on your way to the interview of a lifetime.
1. Posting Inappropriate or Provocative Pictures
Let’s face it, we live in the age of the selfie. And selfies in and of themselves are not damaging, though one could argue that an overabundance of them could be viewed negatively. Overtly sexual or provocative selfies, though, are not in your best interest as a job seeker. After all, once hired you are acting as a representative of that company to all who know you. And most professional workplaces want professional representatives. When in doubt, think about whether or not your daddy would want that picture out in the world. If the answer is no, pull the plug. (This also might be a good rule to follow in general, just to be safe.)
2. Negative and Inflammatory Rhetoric
Negative rhetoric of any kind, for any cause, has no place in the office. Any candidate with a social media presence that is overwhelmingly negative or discriminatory towards any race, religion, political party, or cause will be heavily discounted as a potential culture detractor for a hiring manager. This goes for profanity of any kind, too. Just don’t. Keep it clean.
3. Think Before You Vent
Bad mouthing a previous co-worker or employer? No matter how justified you feel in your anger, think twice before posting. The single greatest predictor of future behavior is what you have done in the past, and no employer wants their name drug through the mud by a disgruntled employee. If you feel wronged in the workplace, confront it head on and tackle it in a professional manner, this beef has no place on your Facebook feed.
4. Hold the Drama
Constantly fighting with your boyfriend and feel the need to post about it? Have girl drama that you want to air to the world? Don’t. Employers want to hire an adult. Boyfriend and girlfriend issues are sometimes unavoidable, but it’s what you do with it that counts. Airing drama of any kind leads employers to think you can’t handle conflict with maturity and that you’re likely to be a culture detractor on their work floor. Keep your drama to yourself, go to the source, and don’t burden social media with your relationship struggles.
5. Grammatical Errors and Overuse of Slang
We all do it. We all get lazy and hit post before proofreading. We all shorten words, use slang, and disregard punctuation across the board when we’re rushing to get a thought out. But keep in mind that as a job seeker, you want to convey professionalism and intelligence with every post. Don’t let social media lingo keep you out of the running for any amazing opportunity. Does it really take that much longer to write out “You” over “U?” The answer is no. Write clearly. Show how smart you are. Employers appreciate well-thought out posts that show intelligence and character.
6. Excessive Drinking or Drug Use
The drugs, well that goes without saying as a job seeker, right? No employer, especially one with a rock-solid substance abuse policy is going to touch you with a 10-foot pole if they see evidence of drug use in your social media presence. But drinking? Where is the line? Many of us enjoy a social drink here and there and many of us love to post insta-worthy pics of our cocktails. And most employers are going to be ok with this, the one exception being ministry-based roles, where many have a strict no-go policy when it comes to alcohol. But what employers will look for is a pattern of behavior and excessive partying. Will how you live impact how you work? They want to know. So keep your partying posts to a minimum.
So what do employers want to see then, you ask?
They want to see who you are. Company culture has become increasingly important to job seekers and employers alike, so they’re looking for positive additions to the culture they’ve worked so hard to protect. Be your fabulous self on social media. Share your hobbies, your likes, your dreams, and your beautiful life with the world. If that is what a potential employer sees without negative distraction, you’ll no doubt find the right job with the right company at the right time.
Read here for more information on EEOC hiring regulations and what is and is not legal for employers to consider in the hiring process.
Don’t miss this episode of our podcast, This Grit and Grace Life: To the Working Woman: A How-To Guide for the Workplace – 023
You’ll also like 6 Things You Should Do to Protect and Advance Your Career, The Truth in the Gender Pay Gap, 10 Ways to be a Young, Respectful Professional, 4 Things to Do When Searching For Your Dream Job, 5 Tips on Dealing With Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Have a Problem at Work? Go Direct and Talk About It!, and 20 Things You Should Avoid Saying in a Job Interview