Is Your Social Media Activity Putting Your Career at Risk?

by Miranda Marquit · 10 comments

We’ve all heard stories about how social media activity has resulted in people losing their jobs. From the discovery of risque pictures on a teacher’s Facebook profile, to complaining about your boss on Twitter, there are a number of ways that social media can impact your career with a specific employer. But your social media activity isn’t just about being careful because your boss friended you anymore, as your online antics are being investigated by potential employers too. Before you are hired, you might be searched online — and what comes up in a public search could mean the difference between being hired and moving on to the next job interview.

What Could Jeopardize Your Career?

A recent article by Jennifer Preston in the New York Times looks into the practice of running a social media background check as part of the hiring process. Some of the things that could get you in trouble as prospective employers search the Internet for information about you include:

  • Racist or sexist remarks.
  • Sexually explicit or risque photos.
  • Complaints about bosses or coworkers.
  • Pictures including prominent displays of weapons.
  • Evidence of participation in illegal activities.
  • Images of you in compromising situations, including photos of you partying hard and clearly drunk.

Hiring managers aren’t supposed to use social media searches to make hires based on age, religion, disability, race, and gender, though. However, there are some concerns that searching the Internet for general information about a potential hire could lead to inadvertent discrimination based on characteristics that, by law, should not be considered as part of the hiring process.

Many of us don’t stop and think about what our social media activity could do to our careers. However, it’s important to consider this reality. The New York Times article points out that some companies providing social media background checks for employers don’t just limit their information gathering to the major sites like Facebook and Twitter. What you post on Tumblr, bulletin boards, Craigslist and your blog could be looked over. No social media outlet is too obscure when it comes to evaluating you based on what’s publicly available online.

Protecting Your Earning Power: Be Smart Online

In order to protect your earning power, it is important that you practice discretion in what you post to social media — and online in general. Your social media antics, while they might seem amusing at the time, could cost you a promotion, a raise, or even your job. This means that it is vital you think before you post. Before you hit “submit,” consider what you are doing. Think about the consequences of your post — especially the images you share online. Even if you think it would be fun to post pictures from your wild college days, it might not be the best idea.

Employers have more and more information available now to help them decide whether or not you are the kind of person they want working for them. From credit report checks to social media background checks, there is a great deal of data available to employers. If you want the best chance, you need to be aware of your publicly available remarks and exploits.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Joshua Dorkin says:

    While older people seem to have more of a filter, the youth who grew up with social media seem less able to recognize what is and isn’t appropriate online. Our social media history is a reflection of us and can absolutely play a damaging role in our careers, if we let it. Great post, Miranda!

  • V3King says:

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  • Dan W. says:

    It’s a timely topic. Some companies and agencies won’t admit it but it’s becoming a standard, social media monitoring. A Facebook profile could reveal so much in an instant. Say if someone floods a Facebook Wall during office hours, I won’t be surprised if he’s a loafer.

    • KM says:

      Again, it’s so easy to not reveal that information. You could so easily set your privacy settings such that no one sees anything except your name and profile picture, which is a minimum requirement. Unless you are my friend, you will not really know anything about me. Even then, it’s nothing I wouldn’t share with the world in case it leaked.

  • MyMy says:

    Soon there will be reports of employers being deceived by applicants who manipulate social media to create a ‘perfect’ image of themselves. While it is a reality that we must be careful what we say and do online, employers should rely more heavily on references, background checks, and drug tests when screening candidates instead of believing everything they find online.

  • SB @ One Cent At A Time says:

    I would rather use social media to pitch for me in job interviews.

  • indio says:

    I work in IT and being on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, youtube and other social media is considered a plus. Companies want to see that you are proficient in many new communication channels and have a following which shows that you have a network to bring to the organization. Even for gen x or millennials, I think companies are becoming more tolerant of those crazy college days. Its only if you do something offensive, like that designer at Christian Dior who was caught going off on a Hitler rant, where it becomes a major publicity problem for the company.

  • KM says:

    This topic has been so overdone. Is it really still a problem? Why would anyone want to post compromising pictures of themselves for the world to see anyway? If someone tags you in them, you still have the option to untag yourself or to make sure no one but your friends (or only certain groups of friends) can see your pictures; therefore, a potential employer would not have access to them. People must be rather stupid for this to continue to be a problem.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Unfortunately, this is still a pretty big problem. If you ask 100 people, I’m sure all 100 will tell you that they know what they are doing, but yet, people are still being affected by what their facebook account reveals. The problem isn’t only tied to people’s pictures – status updates during working hours from facebook games, being a part of weird social groups that would suggest bad behavior etc are still abundantly available to a potential employer, even today.

    • Lynn says:

      Yes, it’s definitely still a problem. 🙁

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