Social media gives people the ability to post whatever they want whenever they want. However, employers have started to check potential employee’s social media platforms before moving forward in the interview process. Employers have also put social media policies in place that warn their employees about thinking before they post content that could be detrimental to the company and themselves. Some may find this intrusive, but I believe this is a valuable component when it comes to companies keeping the best employees around. They don’t want someone working for them that is going to complain about their job or other employees on social media for everyone to see. They also don’t want employees posting inappropriate or offensive content.
According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2017, 70 percent of employers use social media to screen candidates before moving forward with hiring them. 3 out of 10 hiring managers noted that they have someone that is in charge of solely looking at candidates’ social media. Employers also use Google to research candidates to find any trace of them on the internet, good or bad. The top reasons noted for rejecting a potential employee include provocative/inappropriate pictures or videos, racist posts, drinking/drug use, and complaints made about former employers. Posting too frequently or poor communication stills were also noted as “red flags” for employers.
I first learned about going through my social media posts freshman year when I took Emergent Media. At that time, I didn’t know how much my social media posts would affect me getting a job later down the line. Since then, I have been careful as to what I post on Twitter and Instagram. Fast forward to three years later, and I’m back to checking my social media again as I start applying to jobs. I’m currently looking for a position in the social media industry, so I’ve been going through my social media platforms and deleting content that could be seen as inappropriate to a potential employer.
A great tool I stumbled across recently was a website called “Scrubber.” Scrubber will go through your social media accounts for you and flag any content that is inappropriate. This is useful because going through your own social media accounts yourself can be time consuming.
There have been cases of employees getting fired from their jobs because of foolish things they’ve said on social media. One that comes to mind for me is the story of Justine Sacco. Sacco, the former senior director of corporate communications at IAC, was headed to South Africa to visit family and decided to tweet several jokes while traveling. Her first tweet poked fun at a man in first class that had a pungent body odor and the second referenced stereotypes about England. Her third tweet is what really blew everything up. It read, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
After her 11-hour flight to South Africa, her tweet was seemingly shared several times and was the number one trending story on Twitter. The tweet received backlash from thousands of people who stumbled across it. Sacco was immediately fired from her job. I think this was the right decision for Sacco’s employer to do. After the nature of her tweets and how much backlash she received, it wasn’t right to have an employee representing a company talk like that about others. This was a good lesson for Sacco to consider thinking before she posts, because anything can be taken out of context. Lucky for Sacco, four years after the initial incident IAC decided to hire her back to run corporate communications for their Match Group. She now heads communications for Tinder, Match.com, and OkCupid. The CEO noted that her “track record speaks for herself” but her spirit and drive is what landed her back on the team.
In another instance, Kate Nash, the social media manager for Frederick County Public schools in Maryland was caught under fire when she corrected a student’s grammar from the school’s Twitter account. A snow storm was due to hit and a student tweeted to the school, “close school tammarow PLEASE.” Nash tweeted back to the student and said, “But then how would you learn to spell “tomorrow”?”
Her reply quickly generated more than 1,000 retweets and 1,000 likes. A hashtag started generating called #KatiefromFCPS which began drawing attention. After administrators found out about the incident, Nash was asked to immediately apologize to the student. She also had her social media privileges revoked from her. Although, she continued to tweet out calendar updates for the school but refrained from interacting with anymore students on Twitter. Nash was ultimately terminated from her job. She noted that she was never properly trained on how to engage with students or what the tone of the Twitter account was supposed to be. In this situation, I think the blame falls on both ends. The school could have been held responsible for not indicating how to run the accounts, although Nash should have known better that her response could spark attention.
When going into the workforce, I think it’s good to establish your presence on social media, but you should be careful as to what you post or delete posts that are inappropriate. Likewise, if you are in charge of social media for a company, you should be able to identify what is right to post and what isn’t. Social media is a big deal in today’s society, you have to be careful as to what you post. You may think that tweets from years ago won’t affect you, but that isn’t the case. Everybody has the ability to search you and find things from your past, just by Googling you.
Furthermore, companies should have every right to censor their employee’s social media posts. Anything that can found as a “red flag” can and will be used against you. Your social media accounts should be a positive aspect about yourself and shouldn’t reflect any negative qualities about you.
Before applying to jobs it should be a rule of thumb to clean up your social media accounts by getting rid of any questionable posts. Some steps to go about this are to Google yourself, separate personal and professional accounts, make personal accounts more secure and professional accounts public, and polish your content. Moving forward, you can make sure that you are your best self and are seen that way to future or current employers.