Social Media Mistakes Can Cost You the Job

HR managers say posting negative comments is most common deal breaker

By Aliah D. Wright Jan 19, 2016
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If you’re looking for a job, it may pay to keep your snarky comments off social media.​

Staffing service OfficeTeam polled 300 HR managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees and found that “45 percent of HR managers said writing negative or inappropriate comments is the most common social media mistake that takes job seekers out of the running for a position. About one in three (35 percent) cited posting or being tagged in questionable photos as the chief digital faux pas.”

But don’t avoid social media altogether: About 17 percent of HR managers said not posting regularly and having incomplete, dated or no social media profiles were also red flags when it comes to hiring.

Keep It Clean

Keeping social media profiles squeaky clean is incredibly important, studies and experts say.

A new study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM),Using Social Media for Talent Acquisition—Recruitment and Screeningfound that recruiters are increasingly using social media to find talent. Eighty-four percent of organizations now use it to find potential candidates, and an additional 9 percent are planning to use it. Those numbers have risen steadily since 2011, when just 56 percent of recruiters used social media to find talent.

Much has been written about employees who have been fired for social media mistakes, and these stories provide lessons for workers and job seekers alike.

“People often believe posting on social media is just harmless fun, but, in reality, employers frequently look online to learn about prospective hires,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, in a news release. “Professionals should think beyond eliminating unflattering content from their digital accounts to how they can wow hiring managers by showcasing career accomplishments and industry involvement.”

Job seekers should think twice before sharing certain content on any social platform, regardless of their privacy settings.

“When we first [began] talking about the impact of social media on the job search four to five years ago, it was fairly sensible to suggest that people utilize their privacy settings and watch what they say on social media,” said Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer at Talent Think Innovations, in an interview on Twitter with SHRM Online. “In 2016, we have mobile, which trumps everything we knew about privacy,” she said. That’s because “even beyond what people will [publish publicly], a text conversation, a response to a deleted Facebook post and even a Snapchat can be captured by one timely screenshot.”

She added that “more than ever, people have to own not just what they want the public to see, but what could inadvertently be made public by other people. In essence, they must be vigilant about what [they say] and to whom they say things if they are serious about becoming employed. It appears they are also guilty by association, and so they will have to be mindful of who they associate with in the digital realm” just as they are in real life.

Social Media Tips

OfficeTeam provided the following advice for avoiding social media mistakes:

  • Exercise discretion when posting on social networking sites, on blogs or to online communities. You never know who might see your comments.
  • Remove or untag yourself from any images that may raise eyebrows. Use a polished profile photograph.
  • Be aware that participating in conversations about certain topics may make you appear unprofessional. Use your best judgment when sharing status updates, and check your privacy settings to control who in your network has access to what information.
  • Choose your friends wisely. Having the right people in your network can help advance your career, and potential employers may also reach out to your network to learn more about you.
  • Keep your profiles and postings up-to-date. Highlight your work history and accomplishments on sites like LinkedIn. Consider including key terms that describe your skills and experience to help employers find you more easily.
  • Show an interest in your industry by participating in relevant Web groups and forums.



Aliah D. Wright is an online editor and manager for SHRM. She is also author of ​​ A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn ... and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites (SHRM, 2013). Reach her via Twitter @1SHRMScribe or on Facebook @aliahwrites.

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