By now, everyone has heard the cautionary tale of the NASA intern who was fired because of two profane tweets. Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer, had tweeted a warning to the now-former intern about her language use, but she was unaware of his identity and used profanity in her reply to him. While the story was certainly cringe-inducing, many people may think the same situation may never happen to them. But chances are, employers will look at your social media. You just won’t be lucky enough to get a warning.
Social media is fun and engaging, and many of us have the habit of posting anything and everything we do. But more employers use social media in the hiring process than ever before. A 2017 survey by Harris Poll found that 70 percent of employers used social media to screen candidates.
This is both your greatest advantage and disadvantage.
This doesn’t mean you should delete your accounts. The same poll found that 57 percent of employers are less likely to request an interview if they can’t find a candidate online. Social media is a great way to strengthen your professional brand. A well-cultivated profile can potentially impress hiring managers and show off your skills in a dynamic way that your résumé can’t.
Keep in mind that your social media accounts are like an advertisement for who you are. As a job applicant, you are offering a product – yourself, as a potential employee for an organization. If you saw an ad for a product showing its worst features, would you want to buy it? Probably not. So no matter how tempting it might be to log on and complain about your day at your job, or about a coworker, don’t do it. It could be viewed by hiring managers in the future. This also applies after you’re hired. In the Harris poll, over a third of employers found content online that resulted in an employee being reprimanded or even fired.
If it’s too late, and you’ve posted things that aren’t exactly professional, at least go back and delete what you can. This goes for everyone. Take the time to go through your social media profiles and make sure they’re all squeaky clean. You might not remember everything you posted.
If you have accounts with your name or identifying information attached to them, employers can probably find them. It’s up to you to decide if it will be to your benefit or detriment.