6 Social Media Blunders that Sink a Job Search

by Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Let’s say you are looking for a new job or a promotion at your current job.  If your prospective new boss pulls up your Facebook page, will he/she see photos of you drinking scotch from the bottle and the caption says “Drink till you die”?  Or your current employer may see a post on your Facebook page that reads:  “I hate my job, the boss is a jerk!”
These days, social media can be a help or a hindrance to your job search. Social media sites are not hidden.  Anything you post is likely to be seen. Most hiring managers search candidates’ online presence and that includes social networking. You will want to do the same. 
A basic search of your name is a good place to start. What does the search reveal? How deep are the results? Do you find one or two pages, or one or two lines? What does the search reveal about you? Remember, just because your Facebook posts don’t show up in the initial search doesn’t mean information posted there is inaccessible.  In fact, for some companies, that may be where the search begins. Be smart about your online presence and you will outsmart the competition.
1)     Social Media Sites.
Social media can be a big boost to job search, but folks have to use it in smart ways. Look at areas more under your control than the general Google search, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Determine how professional or informal your presence appears on these sites. A critical analysis of your sites will reveal what is communicated about you. Take a step back and analyze social networking sites from a corporate perspective. If anything about the site leaves you feeling a bit embarrassed or “exposed”, you know where to begin making changes. Don’t sabotage your job search by being naïve enough to believe anything about you on the Internet is private.
2)     Inappropriate Language.
Remember your old English teacher’s admonition that you must pay attention to the written word? That remains true for writing on the web. Writing how you talk is not the best advice in the midst of your job search. Think of any written communication as a tiny billboard communicating your assets to hiring managers investigating your online presence.  Inappropriate language definitely includes profanity, so clean it up to strengthen your job search.
3)     Non-PC Statements.
Your social media pages may feel protected or hidden from the general public, but as with anything on the Internet, once it is there, you lose all control of the information. “Think twice and type once” might be a good reminder the next time you are posting.  Any Internet-based communication is open to the world and may be misconstrued. Think about the last time you tried to tell a joke or explain a sensitive situation via email. The recipient of cyber-messages may not interpret what was meant as a short-hand explanation in the same way you intended. 
4)     Negative Comments about your Current Employer.
The supposed sanctity of social media sites can lead many people to develop a false sense of security. As mentioned, social media sites are not completely private. If you are ranting about your current place of employment, the consequences of doing so “in print” are likely to be much more negative for you than the employer. Hiring managers typically avoid anyone whose posts suggest a difficult disposition, rather than the appearance of a team player. 
5)     Unflattering Photos.
Everyone knows drunken holiday party photos will sabotage your job search, but you should be cautious about the content of all photos you post. Public displays of affection, nudity, or any documentation of “unusual” behavior are likely to halt successful job leads. Check with your “friends” on Facebook as well to make sure there aren’t photos on their pages that may cast you in an unflattering light.
6)     Off-color humor.
The Internet is not the local bar or pub. You’re not just making jokes with people who already know you well and will forgive slips of the tongue. However, if negative comments are all the hiring manager knows of you, you are likely to be seen negatively.  
Don’t jeopardize your job search by ignoring potential negative impressions from your online presence. Social media sites are routinely accessed as part of the screening process so get rid of any questionable photos or posts. Beware of social media blunders by taking a smart look at your online presence as if through the eyes of the hiring manager, and you can remove barriers to your next position.