“Cisco just offered me a job!”
That’s the kind of good news a job seeker would be excited to share on social media. However, it went from good to bad when the rest of the tweet was about the dilemma this person faced, weighing the “fatty paycheck” against the commute and “hating the work”—oops. Among the responses was one from a Cisco employee who offered to pass those sentiments along to the hiring manager.
Result: the job was lost before it started.
It’s also an early example (circa 2009) of something that went viral on the internet and an extreme example of poor judgment. But it does communicate the perils of oversharing on social media for a job search and building a professional image.
As information professionals, we all know how easy it is to learn about others using social media (even for those outside of the industry). Many social media platforms can connect you to the company you work for, and therefore your online presence is a reflection of your company. However, oversharing on social media can negatively impact your image among potential employers, peers and co-workers.
What is oversharing?
Oversharing can be posting too frequently, posting inappropriate content such as discriminatory statements, disparaging your previous employers—or in the case of the Cisco story, potential employer and posting incriminating photos.
According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, “7 in 10 employers use social media to research job candidates during the hiring process.” In another survey on online reputation done by Microsoft, 85% of recruiters and HR professionals in the U.S. check out candidates on the web before they schedule an interview.
How oversharing can affect your career
Those who research candidates’ social media stated that the posts that left a bad impression include:
- Posts with inappropriate or provocative photographs
- Posts about drinking or drugs
- Posts with discriminatory behavior
- Posts with criminal behavior
Allowing employers to access these types of posts can turn them away even before interviewing you, ultimately impacting your ability to find a job or hold your current position.
However, just because employers check your social media does not mean that you should delete your accounts altogether. Nearly half of employers say that if they can’t find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview. Some employers say checking potential employees’ social media gives a glimpse of their personality outside of work, which gives them a better understanding of whether or not someone may be a good fit for the team. Others say that they expect potential employees to have an online presence.
In fact, social media can actually benefit job applicants. Hiring managers who discover posts supporting a candidate’s qualifications or have a professional image are more likely to have a positive impression of them.
Ways to avoid oversharing
- Segregate personal use from professional use
One of the first things you can do is understand which platforms you want to use privately and professionally. On private accounts, control who can view your profile and posts. For most platforms, you can adjust privacy settings to restrict how visible you are online. If you want to establish a professional, online presence on social media, you can share articles and posts related to industry trends. Twitter can help you establish yourself as an industry expert by sharing new insights and other current events. You can also leverage social media to create new, professional connections. In particular, LinkedIn is a great platform to start building and managing your professional network.
- Consider if something is appropriate as a public post as opposed to a private message
A good rule of thumb is: if you are hesitating on posting it, you probably should not post it. Be aware of your intentions behind a post, and avoid posting when you’re feeling particularly angry or emotional.
- Use social media to your advantage
Share achievements and professional milestones in your life on social media. Employers will see that you value those milestones and are more likely to have a positive impression of you. Sharing this information may also support the achievements listed on your resume and provide additional context to employers.
- Be aware of what forums you associate yourself with your job
On websites like Facebook and LinkedIn, your employment is usually visible, and what you post is then associated with your company and company’s image. On the other hand, platforms like Twitter and Instagram allow users to create a more personal brand.
- Google yourself
Find out what others see when they look you up by Googling yourself. If you find that search results paint a negative picture, delete posts and adjust your privacy settings until you are satisfied with what a quick social media search reveals about you.
Keep professional separate from personal
There are ways to enjoy social media and stay connected without oversharing on it. Everyone can, and should, have a life outside of work, and social media is an important way that we maintain personal relationships. However, the visibility of social media can blur the line between personal and professional, especially on sites like Facebook, where most people post where they work. If you’re afraid that your online persona might have professional consequences, it’s best to take action and remove the content that makes you nervous. Harness social media to present your best self and you will gain an advantage over other candidates.