Think Before Using Social Networking Sites or You Are Fired! #SocialMedia

You're Fired!First let me say that I love social media. I have a Facebook account, twitter, Google + profile, instagram… you name it I use it. I love how they keep me in touch with friends and family, how they keep me informed about current events, make me laugh and sometimes cry. But I also use them for something else. I use social media to learn a little more about potential employees before we hire them. So, if you have ever embarrassed yourself, (like some companies I wrote about in my blog Social Media Fails Every Company Should Learn From) doing something inappropriate when posting something on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media site, then you are certainly not working for Advice Interactive Group.

Now I know that almost any active social networking user has done a few off the wall things that they post, including me, but most are within the scope of being acceptable. However, I am telling you again (because I am sure you have heard it before) while posting inappropriate or compromising content might seem amusing at the time, it can come back to haunt you later on. Before you post something, you should remember, that effectively it is open for the entire world to see, regardless of your privacy settings. Don’t trust Facebook or any other social media site to respect your privacy!

It’s Not Just Me Looking

It is also a statistical fact that the majority of job recruiters, potential relationship interests and many others search for people online before taking the next step. Around two thirds of employers, for example, have rejected a potential employee due to something that they read about them online.  A recent survey by Jobvite indicated that 45% of hiring managers always search for candidate profiles.  Some employers are doing the screening themselves and others are using services like Social Intelligence.

Reppler recently conducted a survey of 300 professionals who are involved in the hiring process at their company to understand the use of social networks for screening job applicants.  The results of this survey are shown in this infographic:

 Job Screening with Social Media

The moral of the story is – think before you post! If you are unsure what to post and what not to post, take the following tips into consideration.

Do Not Lie!

Many people stretch the truth a little and they say a little white lie never hurts anyone but with social media being so mainstream it’s very easy for potential employers to catch you if you give them false information. There is not an employer I know that will hire someone they know has lied on their resume so your work experience on LinkedIn or Facebook better match the resume that you submit to potential employers.

Compromising Photos

Never post compromising photos of yourself or others on your Facebook page or on any other social networking site. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a group photo from a late night on the town might give people the wrong idea, and even if it is not likely to give people the wrong idea about you, you should also be thinking about others. Facebook in particular is a privacy disaster, so for this reason, only, you may want to disable your tagging settings so that your user name is not automatically associated with images posted online.

It is also wise to avoid posting any provocative pictures on social media sites. This is just common sense but I just need to say it. Remember, these types of photos can end up getting shared and effectively wind up all over the Internet. Whether you are a women posting provocative bikini shots or a man posting topless six-pack shots, think about the impression that you might be giving others first, and be prepared for the consequences. My Advice is post only what you are comfortable with absolutely everyone on the planet potentially being able to see.

Don’t Be Stupid

Another thing, and this is for the stupid people out there, you should never, ever post pictures of yourself doing illegal things, or even appearing to do something illegal. That’s all I have to say on this matter!

What The &*%$?

While you may not realize this, social networking sites are effectively public forums, and while you should use them, you should never take privacy settings for granted. Many people also forget that on Facebook, for example, they are connected to their children, their parents, and yes even their bosses. Some of us may not be all too impressed if you post a drunken rant laced with expletives at four o’clock in the morning. As a matter of fact, any use of profanity or offensive language will reflect negatively upon you, so avoid status updates and comments that could be interpreted as racist, sexist, criminal or discriminatory in any way.

If someone else is liberally using explicit or otherwise offensive language when posting on your Facebook wall or responding to a post on Twitter, you may want to consider blocking them or deleting the post if the situation calls for it. Likewise, you should think before you post comments on other people’s posts or Facebook walls as well.

Personal Information

Everyone has a slightly different definition of what constitutes private personal information and what is alright to share with others. Facebook might try to encourage you to publicize everything from your date of birth to your sexual preferences, but you only need to fill in the parts of your profile that you are comfortable with everyone else seeing. It should also go without saying that you should NEVER write things like your phone number or home address in any public forum or social networking site unless you are absolutely sure that it won’t be viewable by others. You should never post personal information about others either.

Social Networking is no Place to Slander

Certain corners of the Internet are a cesspit for so-called trolls. These residents of the gloomy depths of the Web like to spend their time harassing others and firing up arguments just for the sake of it. Do not end up being one of them. Social networking is no place to slander others, and doing so could actually get you into a lot of trouble. A lot of people have been called out after slandering their employers, colleagues or supervisors…etc. It’s not brain science to be able to figure this out yet, you would not believe how many people I still see airing-out dirty laundry about past or current employment without considering the consequences or thinking it through. Also, if you are at work do not write stuff like “I’m so bored,” or “this place stinks” posts. They just tell me you are a “lazy bum.” And, of course, do not reveal any snippets of confidential company information. That’s just plain asinine.

So, even when you are furious with someone avoid the temptation to vent your anger on your Facebook page. If you do, you will probably end up digging an even deeper hole for yourself. Besides, nobody cares anyway.

The Completely Uninteresting

OMG, this is my biggest social media pet peeves! If you are one of those people who constantly post about what you had for breakfast or how you didn’t sleep so well the previous night, STOP IT! Or if you regularly post about how much you love (or hate) your girlfriend or boyfriend, STOP IT! For the love of God, spare your friends from the torture of being constantly bombarded with the tedium of that which is completely uninteresting or even just plain cringe-worthy.

The Good News 

While some recruiters outright reject candidates based on their social network content, others prefer to give the candidate a chance for redemption. And based on a report from Reppler, some employers look for the following Top 5 “it” factors when they look at your profile:

  1. The candidate gave a positive impression of their personality and organizational fit.
  2. The profile supported their professional qualifications.
  3. The profile showed that the candidate was creative.
  4. The candidate demonstrated solid communication skills.
  5. The profile showed that the candidate was well-rounded.

A Final Word of Advice – Never Trust Social Networking Sites

Although there is a degree of uncertainty over who actually owns content you post on social media sites, services such as Facebook and Twitter effectively end up doing what they like with it anyway. Do not trust social networking sites to keep your privacy. This is not to say that you shouldn’t use them at all; instead, just post what you wouldn’t mind the whole world being able to see. Even if you delete posts, there is a chance that they can come back. For example, when Facebook forced its users to switch to the new Timeline interface, many people saw that their old posts, which they had previously ‘deleted’ suddenly, reappeared. In conclusion, even deleted content might still be lurking somewhere out there.

Do you have an embarrassing work related social media story you would like to share? I’d love to hear about it!

Featured image courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

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