The 2012 Summer Olympics opened in London on July 27th with the traditional processional and the lighting of the Olympic torch. Everything seemed routine, but it was anything but, because five days earlier an athlete had been sent packing for an offensive, racist tweet: Greek triple-jump champion Voula Papachristo angered the Olympic committee and hundreds of thousands of others by tweeting disparaging comments about African Olympic contenders, and the committee responded by sending her back to Greece, disgracing both the athlete and her home country.
The lesson is clear: be careful what you put out there on social media because a prospective employer can find it and decide you aren’t a viable candidate for a position. This kind of character assessment can occur even before you interview since savvy employers make use of services like Jobvite which provide applicant tracking for the social web.
According to the 2014 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, 93% of recruiters make use of social media to find and vet future employees. So any posting on Facebook, Twitter, etc. can wind up with you losing out on a job because of something you wrote one, two or five years ago. Don’t let your dedication to working in the criminal justice system get derailed by posts that reflect negatively on you as one of the criminal justice students
There are certain kinds of posts that are obviously going to wave red flags at recruiters and employers. Have you posted nude pictures of yourself or pictures of you and your friends partying just a little too hard in Cabo or Daytona Beach? Have you gone off on people or engaged in online spats that reflect badly on your character?
Here are a few of the real-life responses by professionals to what they have seen on applicants’ social media accounts:
“The worst accounts I came across were students seeking an internship, and those included tons of profanity and in one case a few way too revealing (borderline nude) pics. I’m all for self-confidence, but when I’m looking for someone to be a team player, I don’t want to get into a situation with big egos or improper dress.”– Amanda Forbes Mestdagh, APR
“One time, I saw a candidate who I was really interested in bringing in for an interview, and after checking his social media accounts, which were filled with his weekend activities (some being illegal), I knew we couldn’t hire him if we wanted to, so I never called for an interview.” – Kindra Svendsen, digital marketing/PR specialist, Speak Creative
Another common online social media mistake is to voice negative opinions about current or prospective employers; this is a case of “if you have nothing positive to say, don’t say anything at all.” And be careful that your different social media accounts agree with each other. For instance, if your Linkedin account touts your work ethic but your Facebook account reflects you as a party animal, you may be in for trouble.
Free speech is a right, but your political opinions have the potential to offend a recruiter and cause you to lose out on jobs that might be perfect for you. Pay attention to universal complaints about poor grammar and spelling or a prospective employer is liable to think that you are either too careless or simply not literate enough to be able to handle material without making noticeable errors. And don’t use profanity; it may turn out that your workplace is casual and accepts some profanity, but it’s a bad idea for a first impression.
We know that no information put online ever truly vanishes (deleted tweets can be restored, Instagram photos remain intact in cyberspace and embarrassing pictures you’ve been tagged in by your friends are there forever), but what can be done to rectify the situation? Don’t lose hope – it is possible to clean up your online image, but you need to be dedicated to the task.
First, Google yourself, so that you can cover all bases. You can untag yourself in photos on Facebook, and you can also request the website administrator to remove a post. Next, use your privacy settings. Clean up your tweets and posts and remove all “incriminating” photos. Make sure to add posts, tweets and content that reflect your interest in the field you are applying to get into. And again – importantly – make sure that your resume and your Linkedin account are in sync about your background and experience.
If you need more help, there is a Facebook app called Simplewash that will clean up your Facebook presence for you.