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Privacy And Social Media: Can A Few Careless Posts Really Cost You Your Career?

Privacy and Social Media: Can a Few Careless Posts Really Cost You Your Career?


By Cindy Schwartz

Group Manager, Recruitment Solutions
& Contributing Writer at Quantum

In the news recently, one Privacy Commissioner in Newfoundland advised employers against making judgement calls on prospective candidates based on their social media presence.  The reasoning being is that, without their consent, he believes it to be an invasion of privacy.

The question is, are we entitled to privacy rights on something that we publicly shared?

Social media can help you stay connected to your peers, but it also opens you up to an increased level of scrutiny. Whether you agree or not, the reality is that you are being evaluated on your social presence. And to top that off, if you’re someone who buys Youtube likes, the journey to the top can be a little turbulent. buying youtube likes can feel awkward at first, because after you buy, you suddenly are exalted onto a position where you have higher chances of getting judged.

Consider these statistics from Careerbuilder:

  • 57% of employers are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online (so no presence on social media is not the answer).
  • 54% have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles (could be as banal a reason as spelling or grammatical errors).
  • Half of employers check current employees’ social media profiles, and over a third have reprimanded or fired an employee for inappropriate content (such as inappropriate posts related to drugs, alcohol, sex, profanity, race, religion, etc.)
  • 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates.

Detective work is a big part of recruitment. Our clients hire us to find the best candidates possible, based primarily on work experience – but they are also looking for a good cultural fit and someone whose values align with those of the company (or, more specifically, the team/hiring manager). Competent HR professionals working for companies that hire directly also look to establish a sense of an applicant’s personality, motivators, and attitude.  As such, despite the well-intentioned advice and a proposed new set of guidelines issued by Newfoundland’s Privacy Commission, the practice of background checks via social media is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Understanding the impact of social media on our candidate’s career chances, therefore, we have devised some helpful pointers to help you achieve a modicum of privacy, while appealing to potential employers, clients, and collaborators.

It’s important to understand the difference between your personal self and your career self.

LinkedIn and Facebook are a great place to start.  LinkedIn is a medium designed specifically to showcase your professional self. Facebook, on the other hand, is designed for networking and advertising, either for your professional or personal self, but is generally a representation of your personal life (family and vacation photos, etc.)  As such, the things that you post and contribute should reflect those differences.

Below is a rundown of the most popular social media platforms and our advice for each:

  • Your LinkedIn profile should be a comprehensive reflection of all your professional talents, skills, and accomplishments. Joining groups and associations that are related to your interests provides insight to prospective clients or employers, as does asking for recommendations and having others vouch for your skills. Make sure that your resume matches your profile and that there are no discrepancies. Furthermore, ensure that your photo is a professional headshot from the chest up.
  • The objective of Facebook is to connect people through photos, messages, events, and chats. If you are an active user on this site and like to chronicle your every move, we recommend tightening your privacy settings, so only people you are friends with can see your posts and photos. You can also only let friends of friends send you friend requests, and you should limit what is seen on your timeline feed to basics for those outside your network. You can feel free to get creative with your profile photo, just ensure that it is not too risqué and is suitable for most audiences.
  • Instagram is a photo sharing app and has similar settings as Facebook, in that it allows you to first approve any individuals who wish to follow you. As an extra precaution, you can also choose a handle that doesn’t include your full name, so it is harder to identify that it is, in fact, you.
  • Twitter exists somewhere in between the other mediums. There are no real safeguards for privacy. What you write can be seen by anyone, anywhere, and it will be there forever. If used mindfully, Twitter provides a great platform to showcase to prospective collaborators, clients, and employers a sense of who you are by what you tweet, what you choose to re-tweet, and what you like. If you don’t wish to censor what you write, we recommend creating your account under an alias that does not include your full name.

Just like any business, we all have a personal brand that we are responsible to maintain if we wish to succeed in the professional sphere. When it comes down to it, use good judgement and behave in a way that your future self will thank you for!

You’ve double-checked your social media pages and are ready to start your job search?  Check our job listings!  One of them might be just what you’re looking for.

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