For young job seekers, the Internet can be either a huge benefit or a terrible curse. With social media, you can now easily create a personal brand that showcases your skills and creativity to potential employers. On the other hand, the web has a way of making private mistakes into very public ones. In the digital age, youthful indiscretions can last way past your youth.
These days, recruiters routinely scour social media accounts when making hiring decisions. In fact, 92 percent of hiring managers say they use social media as part of their decision-making process, according to a Jobvite survey. CareerBuilder found that 49 percent of hiring managers who screen candidates via social networks have discovered information that made them reject a candidate.
So if your kids ever want to get hired in today’s competitive job market, make sure they don’t make any of these potentially career-ending blunders.
Making Vulgar or Offensive Comments
All it takes is one stupid, thoughtless comment to ruin your career prospects for a long time. Obviously anything racist or derogatory will be an immediate red flag to employers. What may seem like a private, off-hand joke can quickly escalate on the interwebs into a full-blown scandal. That’s what former PR girl Justine Sacco found out when she jokingly tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” to her 170 Twitter followers before boarding a flight to Cape Town. By the time Sacco landed, she was a worldwide trending topic — and out of a job. Worst of all, any Google search of her name will immediately bring this story up, perhaps forever.
Badmouthing Your Employer
It’s never a good idea to complain publicly about your job on social media. Invariably, whatever you post will somehow make its way back to your company. It will not only ruin your relationship with your current employer, but it can also taint prospects with future ones if recruiters find it online in their vetting process. Connor Riley, then a 22-year-old, never even got as far as her first day in the office after tweeting, “Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” Cisco made it easy for her to solve this particular dilemma.
Making an Obvious Lie
The Internet has a way of keeping you honest, whether you like it or not. Because social media is such an integral part of their lives, young people sometimes forget that it creates a very public record of their activities and whereabouts. This can be problematic when, say, you’ve called in sick at the office, claiming a family emergency — only to have your boss discover you’re really out partying. That’s exactly what happened to Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank’s North American office who ditched work to attend a Halloween night party. Too bad a photo of him in a fairy costume surfaced on Facebook. His boss’s wry reply: “Hope everything is ok in New York (cool wand).”
Acting Completely Idiotic
It goes without saying that posting photos of yourself obviously drunk or doing drugs isn’t a good idea if you want to get hired. But practical jokes that seem too funny not to share to your social network can easily come back to haunt you as well. A couple of young employees at Taco Bell were famously fired after a photo of one of them licking a stack of hard taco shells (later thrown out) somehow appeared on the company’s Facebook feed. “We do not believe these employees harmed, or intended to harm, anyone,” Taco Bell said in its statement. “But we deplore the impressions this has caused to our customers, fans, franchisees, and team members. The behavior is unacceptable for people working in a restaurant.”
Posting Sexy Selfies
For millennials, selfies come as naturally as texting with one hand. Most of the time, these come across as harmless fun. But if you’re a young man and your feed is full of shirtless selfies, you’re making an impression that’s not altogether positive. If you’re a young woman posting a lot of suggestive selfies, you might get passed up for a corporate job that requires a certain degree of professionalism in manner and appearance. Whatever you do, avoid the fate of this young cop in Pennsylvania who lost her job after posting a sexy selfie of herself in full uniform, complete with a racial slur in the caption.
All of these mistakes could have been prevented with a healthy dose of common sense. If you have any doubt, just don’t post it. Your more mature self will thank you later.