We’ve visited this subject in the past but it is so important, it warrants a second look.
The number of social media products we have access to seems to grow every year. There have never been so many ways to have your voice heard! From sharing some good news, a funny-fantastic picture or video, to a heartfelt rant about something that just happened…you can now tell the world about whatever is on your mind. And why not? Everybody seems to be doing it and being heard and getting attention is fun! However, the fun can end pretty abruptly if the content is somehow offensive.
This is particularly true if you find yourself in a position to consider a job change.
The most popular browser indexes much of the social media content being pushed out every day. This means posting, sharing, liking, tweeting, snap chatting, google+ing, you-tubing, something becomes a matter of historical record, accessible by persons with knowledge of Boolean logic, minimal computer skills, and a passing interest. (Even those platforms offering automated message termination features can have messages saved and shared in the future by someone once considered a friend). Just this week, the owner of a record-breaking performance had their moment tainted by tweets that were several years old. Now that person isn’t job hunting, but the lesson should not be lost by any of us. Headhunters, IT Recruiters, Engineering Recruiters, staffing firms and agencies, hiring managers and human resource professionals are merely a few clicks from uncovering information that you may have shared long ago. You may have been much younger, or perhaps you did it late on a Saturday night when you weren’t at your best (☺) or perhaps you were overcome by emotion at the moment you tweeted. You had even forgotten you shared something, but unfortunately, the cyber universe has a long memory.
Social media platforms don’t take into account the human factors involved in the exchange of information. They don’t care that you were having a bad day or were a couple drinks into an evening, or had just lost something or someone precious to you. They have all the empathy of a machine. They don’t make allowances; forgiveness is not part of their programming. They are there to transmit and collect data…your data. Further, the person viewing the information you share doesn't necessarily know the mitigating circumstances of your situation. All they can see is that you shared it. This is a reality of the powerful but chilly world of human communications through computers.
For people in a position of changing careers or jobs, prospective employers generally do a thorough check to ensure the candidate they are considering is ‘skills capable’ as well as a cultural fit. They will interview, ask challenging questions, do references, complete background checks, administer tests to evaluate your personality and intelligence and even check for drug use. As they are going through time and expense to ensure they have the right candidate, one must assume they will take 5-10 minutes to see what you are doing in the social media space.
So don’t place all the effort at risk. All of it can be undone by ‘liking’ the wrong posting, or tweeting/retweeting what you thought was amusing or harmless content only to find someone important to the decision found it offensive or in poor taste.
Lastly, if you don’t get an offer for reasons related to your social media presence, you will never know it. Due to the litigious nature of our culture, HR and hiring managers, IT recruiters, and headhunters are instructed not to share the ‘why’s’. This leaves us in position to continue to have that experience with other potential employers in the future.
So share away if you are so inclined, especially if you habitually share positive, service-oriented, upbeat, help-your-fellow-man stuff, which almost always leaves the reader feeling positive about the author. However, if your social media activities occasionally fall outside this behavior, know that people will make judgements.