6 Ways Social Media Can Sabotage Your Job Search

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A lot has been said about the new opportunities and exciting options social media provides for those embarking on a job search. However, there is a ‘dark side’ to social media as well that can torpedo your efforts to transition or otherwise be hired that are important to recognize. While a lot has been said about using personal blogs, effective Tweets, unique videos and more to lock in your dream job, be sure you have your easily managed best practices locked in also before bringing attention to your digital footprint.

Here are six quick ways that social media can sabotage your job search:

1. Your inside jokes on Facebook and Twitter require a bit more context. It goes without saying that if your feeds aren’t Private, your employer can (and will) come across your posting. How you speak to your friends may not come through as banter and, instead, look like bullying (or worse). Similarly, those pictures from Halloween of 04 may represent the ‘younger you’ but might be just uncomfortable enough for a tie-breaker decision. Do yourself a favor and use privacy where possible, as well as mining through your photo libraries for pictures that were great in college but not at the mid-management phase in your life. For Facebook, click the “lock next to a bulleted list” icon in the upper right corner, click Who Can See My Stuff? and select View As to see what your public profile would look like to a potential employer.

2. Your reference(s) may start making you look bad. Short and to the point: find out what is on the public profiles of your references before you list them on a job application. Company ABC may think differently of you when they see your biggest fan is also the biggest fan of inappropriate humor, etc. It may be a disappointment but at least have the discussion with yourself on whether it’s a good idea to bring attention to your relationship with people who are less cautious about their digital presence. At the very least it becomes a known risk and not unintentional sabotage.

3. LinkedIn’s default ‘Follow’ option when applying for a job reveals your employment plans. Undoubtedly a well-intended option for users who may want to learn more about the company they are applying for directly off of LinkedIn, this auto-selected Follow button might spell disaster for your silent job search.

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As I scroll through my feed, I have reached out to numerous friends to clue them in that their look into other work isn’t so covert. Instead, LinkedIn has notified me they are now Following nine different companies in five different industries, all unrelated to their ongoing role at Company X. LinkedIn may tell you that “Your job activity is private” but your Following activity is often not. What’s more, if the company requests a significant amount of information, this Follow box is hidden by a scroll, meaning you may not even realize you’re Following when you click Submit. This goes for Connections as well: suddenly being Friends with recruiters and HR professionals may send the wrong signal to your current employer or co-workers. Simply put, a flurry of activity where before you barely used a platform is a red flag you don’t need to be flying.

4. Google’s cache may not be your friend. While you may not use many social media platforms, or any, the people you know do. Your rules for posting are not the same as the people around you, meaning the 3 AM river dive you all agreed to do doesn’t come up on your Facebook but may, with names tagged, show up on a friend of a friend, with full name attribution. That seems ridiculous but it’s not… when people don’t understand the ramifications of their actions, anything can (and will) get posted online (as highlighted by this Superman comic). Similarly, your name may be identical to someone else that looks similar enough to put you in a bad light. At minimum, you can review what’s online now and go from there in terms of preparation (or action). While you’re at it, set up a Google Alert for your own name. It’s not arrogant these days: it’s safe.

5. Who you Follow will follow you. Boredom gets the best of all of us and choosing to get random distractions from tedium in your feed may be one of life’s simple pleasures. However, it also sets the stage for explaining what you get out of that account. Brands have been kicked around in the news over the past years for how they interact with user accounts that may have been posting wonderful, business-related items one day and then troubling world views the next. Similarly, use of the Favorite function on Twitter may come back to bite you if it includes things you wouldn’t want out there (St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez recently got bad headlines for this). Review your public account’s footprint to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.

6. Fair or not, employers may assess your quality of work or interest by what you post. Gone are the days where people could use shorthand, slang, improper punctuation, etc., online and disclaim it with “it’s the Internet, who cares?” Like it or not, a potential hiring decision may be made by proper commas, their vs. there, the use of its and more; “u r so dum” as a default response on Twitter may, in fact, make you look to be a dumb candidate choice. What’s more, if you are applying for a job in social media but haven’t updated your Twitter since the Super Bowl, there’s a plausible concern that you are unable to commit to accounts, or at least implement the best practices you’ll be called upon to provide clients. Put in the extra effort if you are beginning to look for work and also recognize that this could be an X-factor to capitalize on or close defunct accounts you no longer feel are needed.
These are just some of the ways that social media can sabotage your job search. Hate sites and other reputation management issues are a whole other area to delve into. What other ways can social media sabotage a job search that aren’t included?
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