How Social Media Can Harm Your Job Prospects

  | James Innes

Before the era of social media, employers looking to hire a candidate would typically ask for references from a former boss or respected professional, such as teacher, lawyer or accountant. Nowadays, however, clients are frequently turning to social media as an additional way of researching applicants. And what they find there can be an instant reason for them to reject you out of hand.

Whilst companies generally have little interest in how their employees spend their free time - provided its legal, of course! - as a job seeker the comments you make, the pictures you post, and the pages you like can directly impact how you are viewed by a prospective employer.

Just as first impressions count when you get into an interview - how you are dressed, groomed and comport yourself - so the same goes for your social media presence. Explicit photos, racist or sexist comments, negative remarks about current or previous bosses or companies will also raise immediate red flags. Even innocent activities such as celebrating a birthday with friends and a few drinks can be taken out of context by somebody viewing your Facebook page for the first time.

The best advice for job seekers is to undertake a spring clean of their social media presence before applying for jobs. This may mean using the privacy settings on Facebook, and undertaking a cull of your more explicit online photos. Comments that may be considered derogatory or inflammatory should be deleted and that old college photo of you enjoying a good night out replaced with a professional profile shot of you.

This may sound like self censorship - but its worth it. Demonstrate the warmth, vibrancy and strength of your personality and interests when you meet the employer in the flesh and, better still, when you begin working for them. But you may never get that chance if you don't clean-up your social media presence. 

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