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Don't Let These Social Media Mistakes Ruin Your Career

Saige Driver
Saige Driver

Social media is a great platform for employees and job seekers to post about their accomplishments, portfolios and volunteering activities. However, a slip-up can cost you your career or ruin your chances of getting a job.

Recruiters are increasingly scouring the internet for information about potential employees. According to a Harris Poll survey, 70 percent of employers utilize social media to screen candidates prior to hiring. A questionable social media presence may tip the scales in favor of an equally qualified – but most polished– candidate.

"[A] recruiter's search includes a variety of resources, and many of those resources are targeting social media in order to find both active and passive talent," said Nicole Cox, chief recruitment officer at virtual recruiting firm Decision Toolbox. "A social footprint can say a lot about a person – in a positive [or] negative way."  

If you're currently employed and your actions online are negatively affecting your work, it may be grounds for termination. [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 advisorfor "This is … being used to fire people based on their ill-advised social media behavior."

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Social media mistakes to avoid

According to Jobvite's "2017 Recruiter Nation Report," the following indiscretions will give recruiters a negative impression when researching candidates:

  • Showing pictures of or talking about marijuana use. More than 60 percent of the recruiters polled indicated that posting about marijuana use would negatively impact a candidate's chance of getting the job.
  • Political rants. More than half of recruiters see political rants as a red flag.
  • Spelling and grammar errors. Before you post anything online, make sure everything is spelled correctly and you use correct grammar. Forty-eight percent of recruiters say poor spelling and grammar would negatively affect their decision about an applicant.
  • Alcohol consumption. Excessive partying can damage credibility, and recruiters may believe it could negatively affect your performance at work.
  • Showing off wealth and big purchases. No one likes a show-off – including recruiters and employers. A little less than 20 percent of recruiters say this is a turn-off.

Showing too much skin (16 percent) and a limited social presence (12 percent) are other no-nos. Also, seven percent of recruiters indicated if a candidate posts too many selfies, it would give them pause.

Checking your online presence

If you're actively job searching, Joe Weinlick, senior vice president of marketing at Nexxt. 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.

"While some people do an excellent job at keeping their personal and professional online personas separate, most often, job seekers have blended social media profiles," said Cox."With artificial intelligence tools, recruiters are likely to see both your professional and personal profiles side by side. Do they tell a similar story about you?"

When in doubt, set all your personal social profiles to private. 

Social media best practices

On the flip side, job candidates and employees can use social media in a way that casts them in a positive, professional light. Here are some ways you can impress recruiters through your online profile.

  • Examples of written or design work. Social media is a great place to showcase your work. Sixty-five percent of recruiters surveyed by Jobvite say this would positively influence their opinion of a job candidate.
  • Engagement in volunteering, mentoring or other nonprofits. More than 60 percent of recruiters agree it's a plus when you show volunteer work on social media.
  • Mutual connections. Thirty-five percent of recruiters indicated mutual connections is a positive factor that impacts their decision to move forward with a candidate.

If you aren't sure if something is appropriate for social media, err on the side of caution and don't post it.

"Use good judgement," said Cox. "Remember: If you would be ashamed of your grandmother seeing what you posted, then it probably shouldn't be posted. What lands on the internet, stays on the internet somewhere."

Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit: mama_mia/Shutterstock
Saige Driver
Saige Driver
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
Saige received her bachelor's degree in journalism and telecommunications from Ball State University. She is the social media coordinator for Aptera and also writes for and Business News Daily. She loves reading and her beagle mix, Millie.