Have you ever heard the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Well, most people say this after they’ve returned from their trip because it lets everyone know they had a great time, but now that the fun is over, any evidence of the experience would be best kept private. Unfortunately, in today’s technological age, the same concept can’t be applied to social media, which allows us to share ideas, pictures, and opinions with our networks in a matter of seconds. As a result, you have to be careful about what you post–the internet makes it almost impossible to permanently delete something. This is especially important because an increasing number of employers have begun to utilize these websites in order to weed out unprofessional candidates throughout the screening and interview stages.
“As a professional, especially if you are in the market for your next opportunity, you always want to ensure your personal life being displayed via social media sites will not taint your professional reputation,” advises Michael Cooke, Executive Vice President of Execu|Search’s Accounting/Finance division. “You should be aware of the impact that your posts or tweets may have on your job search in order to take the proper precautions to ensure they highlight your best qualities as a prospective candidate.”
It’s important to understand that what, to whom, and how you share information on social media sites all have the potential to damage your professional image. However, remember that it’s not only sharing pictures that might be seen as inappropriate by a prospective employer, as ill-advised words (e.g., status update, comment, tweet, etc.) can have just as much of an impact on your image. For example, since it is very difficult to read one’s tone in social media, a sarcastic comment can be misinterpreted very easily by someone who doesn’t know you.
With so much at risk, as a working professional, how do you gauge what is suitable enough to share on your social media pages versus what is not? Well, three main areas that employers tend to focus on include:
- Social activity – Unless it’s part of your job responsibilities, employers typically don’t want to see that you’ve been active on social media during working hours;
- Pictures – Your photos should always maintain a certain level of appropriateness;
- Content Sharing – How you comment on everyday occurrences or share your opinion(s) on current events could be a problem to certain employers.
If there is ever a question about posting something, it’s best not to at the risk of sounding unprofessional. Why? “Put yourself in their shoes, if you saw an inappropriate video, photo, or discussion a potential new hire shared via a social media site, would you want to be associated with that candidate or employee?” asks Michael.
Overall, it’s also important to keep in mind that not all employers will view social media pages through the same lens; what might be considered “too much” for a conservative law firm, might not hold the same weight at a more relaxed startup company. “We’ve seen that the more conservative industries such as financial services, accounting/finance, private equities, etc., are more inclined to make a judgment based on social media pages,” advises Michael. “Therefore, to help protect their professional image throughout your job search and maintain their integrity, we advise professionals to clean up their social media profile(s), update their privacy settings, delete or edit offensive posts or tweets, ‘untag’ themselves from unfavorable photos, and think before they share.”