What Kind of Employee Does Your Social Media Say You Are?

social media screening for employment

We recently featured a blog that covered why not having social media is bad for your job search. Now, we wanted talk about the other side of the coin.

What if you do have a social media presence? What does your activity on your social media accounts say about you to an employer while you’re interviewing?

90% of employers consider an applicant’s social media activity during the hiring process. Of those who research a candidate’s social media presence, 57% have found reasons to not hire potential candidates.

But the monitoring doesn’t end there. 48% of employers check the social media activity of their current employees, with 34% finding content that caused them to reprimand or outright dismiss an employee.

Is it Legal for Employers to Check Social Media Accounts?

The statistics above might be surprising to some. It may even prompt the question: Is this even legal? The short answer is yes. These are public forums so you should assume that anything you post can be seen by anyone. Now, you might be thinking, “I’m safe because I’ve enabled strict privacy settings.”

But think again. In some states, it’s legal for employers to ask employees for usernames and passwords to their social accounts. Although, there are many states that have passed laws against this. Look up your state’s password laws.

What is illegal is for employers to violate anti-discrimination laws. For example, an employer cannot fire or act against you after learning about your sexual orientation, religion, pregnancy status, etc., from any source, including social media accounts.

What Employers Do Not Want to See on Social Media

social media screening for employment

It’s safe to assume that an employer or potential employer will be looking at your social media activity. Here’s a list of topics or content that will make them think twice about you. Most of these won’t come as a surprise. 

Employers don’t want to see:

  • References to illegal drug use. No pictures of you using or talking about using drugs, even if you’re kidding.
  • Explicitly sexual posts. Even posts of yourself that show too much skin can be a deal-breaker for some employers.
  • Use of profane language.
  • References to guns. Again, it’s best to avoid this topic altogether whether you are a gun owner or not.
  • Photos of you consuming alcohol to an excessive degree. Posting a picture of you toasting a friend with a glass of wine is fine. A picture you at a party with beer bottles strewn about is problematic.
  • Poor grammar and spelling.
  • Discriminatory comments against people of a certain race, the LGBTQ+ community, members of a certain religion, etc.
  • Information that indicates you are linked to criminal behavior. That includes posts about what you may think is “harmless fun.” For example, maybe you went pool hopping with friends at midnight. There’s no real harm there, but it can still be viewed as trespassing.
  • Posts where you’re talking negatively about former employers or co-workers. If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.
  • An unprofessional username (e.g., TequilaTom or HotGurl85). Use your first initial and last name or some slight variation.
  • Proof that you’ve lied about an absence. In other words, don’t call in sick and then post a picture of you on the beach two hours later.
  • Proof that you’ve lied about your experience or qualifications. If you graduated from Harvard or won a prestigious industry award, then that information should be easily found online.
  • Excessive posts during business hours. Employers want to see that you’re working when you should be working.
  • Excessive selfies. Too many selfies indicate to employers that you might be a bit self-absorbed.

What Employers Do Like to See on Social Media

social media screening for employment

Now that you know what not to post on social media, let’s look at what you can do to make sure your social media accounts are up to employers’ standards.

Employers want to see:

  • Professional profile pictures. A recent headshot with a nice smile is perfect. You can even use the same picture across all accounts to maintain consistency.
  • Clear, thoughtful posts with proper spelling and grammar.
  • Connections with people in your industry.
  • Regular, insightful engagement on professional sites such as LinkedIn.
  • Interests outside of work. For example, you can post pictures that show you are an avid mountain biker, you play guitar, or you recently took a trip to Italy.
  • Consistency between your interview answers and your online presence. For example, if you played up your strong communication skills in the interview, but online you’re argumentative or belligerent, then that will raise a red flag.
  • Consistency between your resume and your social media accounts. That’s why it’s so important for you to update your LinkedIn profile along with your resume as your career progresses.
  • Creative use of social media. Social media is ever changing, and employers want to see if you are using the new technologies and tools these platforms use to your advantage. The more innovative and original you are online, the better you’ll look to employers.

Social Media Tells Employers Who You Are

social media screening for employment

It can’t be emphasized enough. Your current employer and potential employers will check your social media accounts and make judgements about who you are as a person and an employee.

Is that fair? Well, that point can be argued either way. Regardless, it’s a reality in today’s world. Enjoy your social media accounts and have fun. But before you post anything think to yourself “Do I want my potential employer seeing this?” Just asking that question alone should help you avoid a lot of potential trouble.

Finally, remember to include your public LinkedIn URL in your professional resume’s contact information since employers expect any professional to have one and will further vet you accordingly. 

Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.

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