Social media is a useful tool for entrepreneurs and professionals. It can better your personal and professional brands and connect you with other people in your industry. However, a slip-up can cost you your job or ruin your career.
According to recruiting software company Jobvite's Recruiter Nation Report, 92 percent of recruiters use social media in evaluating candidates. The report indicated that 47 percent of recruiters view photos of alcohol consumption on social media negatively, and oversharing on social media is a big turnoff for 60 percent of recruiters.
If you're currently employed and your actions online are negatively affecting your work, it may be grounds for you to lose your job. [See Related Story: Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers]
"Most employment agreements include a clause stating that employees must uphold the values of the company and not tarnish its image," said Lauren McAdams, career consultant for ResumeCompanion.com. "This is one of the ones being used to fire people based on their ill-advised social media behavior."
According to McAdams, these four indiscretions will likely come with consequences.
- Scandalous photos. Excessive partying, illegal substances and overtly sexual photos can damage an employee's credibility, and if deemed to be negatively affecting performance, can lead to termination.
- Posting about lies to get out of work. This one ranks low on the common sense scale, but it has led to more than a few terminations.
- Complaining about a colleague, client, manager or the company. Publicly airing dirty laundry looks bad; of all of these, saying anything about customers or clients is the greatest offense.
- Bullying or trolling. The anonymity of the web is disappearing quickly, and those who engage in this behavior online are being outed more and more.
When you're interviewing for a job, a questionable social media presence may tip the scales in favor of an equally qualified — but "cleaner" — candidate.
"We have had clients choose not to interview candidates based on what they see on the candidate's public Facebook page or on other websites," Stacy Pursell, president and executive search consultant at The Pursell Group, said. "A candidate ... posted drinking pictures and our client decided not to interview her based on those pictures. Another candidate had pictures of her scantily clothed. Even though our client did multiple interviews with her and liked her, once the client saw those pictures, they declined to make her a job offer."
Danica Kombol, president of the Everywhere Agency, a social media marketing agency, echoed the sentiment of Pursell, who had a similar experience.
"We've ... decided not to extend the offer because of what we saw on a candidate's social media profiles," Kombol said. "A candidate we knew spent all her time bashing her current employer. Her lack of tact in expressing discontent with her bosses told us that she didn't have the characteristics of being a team player."
Watching your online behavior
If you're actively job searching, Joe Weinlick, senior vice president at career network Beyond, suggests spending some time searching your name to see what activity or internet history is associated with it.
"Whether that be a profane or controversial statement, or photos that make you appear unprofessional, it's really important to do everything you can to try and log in to old social media accounts and delete the evidence before you start applying for jobs," he said.
When in doubt, make sure that you're setting all your social profiles to private.
"Odds are, you're going to be Google-searched by hiring managers before your next interview," McAdams said. "Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to tighten up the privacy settings on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts."
"Even if you're careful, comments can be taken out of context or others can tag you in a photo without you knowing," Weinlick added. "Play it on the safe side, and use this [privacy] barrier to keep your personal and private life separate."