Can Social Media Cost You That Job?

Will your online profile affect your career? You bet it will.

Nowadays, your personal online reputation is becoming a major factor in your life and especially in your career.


The articles quoted below are from 2011, so you can bet that now in 2014, social media background checks and periodic monitoring of employees’ social media accounts is standard practice.

It’s the not so “new” thing. Potential employers (or current ones) looking at your Facebook page to glean information about your personal life—and make a decision on whether or not to hire (or fire) you!

Actually, companies have been doing it for a while now. Joe Bontke, outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) office in Houston, said 75 percent of recruiters are required to do online research of candidates and 70 percent have rejected candidates because of what they found, in a recent New York Times article.

But a few things have changed. And if you’re a job candidate, not necessarily for the better.

Some companies are now requiring potential employees to pass a “social media background check” before offering them a job. In fact, that’s all one company, Social Intelligence, does.

Social Intelligence will check a candidate’s Facebook page, Google, LinkedIn—in fact, they scour the Internet to dig up anything they can on job seekers within the past seven years—much like a financial credit check.[1]

People get passed over for new jobs and fired from current jobs every day because of social media.

And what relevant unflattering information has led to job offers being withdrawn or not made? Mr. Drucker said that one prospective employee was found using Craigslist to look for OxyContin. A woman posing naked in photos she put up on an image-sharing site didn’t get the job offer she was seeking at a hospital.

Other background reports have turned up examples of people making anti-Semitic comments and racist remarks, he said. Then there was the job applicant who belonged to a Facebook group, “This Is America. I Shouldn’t Have to Press 1 for English.” This raises a question. “Does that mean you don’t like people who don’t speak English?” asked Mr. Drucker rhetorically.[2]

Your personal right to privacy LOL

All of this definitely blurs the line between what you do in your personal life and how it affects your job. But let’s face it, in this day and age, your right to privacy is history.

In some states, employers can demand your usernames and passwords so they can look at your social media accounts. There is a move in many states to get legislation on the books or in the works to protect worker’s rights to privacy where social media is concerned.

Increasing numbers of Americans use social media both on and off the job. Recently, some employers have asked employees to turn over their usernames or passwords for their personal accounts. Some employers argue that access to personal accounts is needed to protect proprietary information or trade secrets, to comply with federal financial regulations, or to prevent the employer from being exposed to legal liabilities. But others consider requiring access to personal accounts an invasion of employee privacy.[3]

You are what you post

Posting nude pictures of yourself, trying to buy drugs off Craigslist and posting hate comments are definitely red flags to employers. There’s no question about that.

However, as you can see from the “This Is America. I Shouldn’t Have to Press 1 for English” example above, it does not take much for someone to pass judgement on you from something you posted on your social media account. Just that job seeker belonging to that Facebook group was enough to get them circular filed.

Was it right for someone to not get hired because they belonged to what appears at first glance to be a patriotic Facebook group? Probably not, but a judgement was made and the candidate was passed over.

A potential employer could see a picture of you at a family barbecue with beer in hand and judge you as a raging alcoholic. A picture is worth a thousand words.


Think of how quick everyone is to judge. You never know.

In today’s overly politically correct society, its easy to unintentionally offend someone, or make yourself appear to certain people as something you are not.

People judge you every day online and everything you post can be misconstrued depending on the judge.

We’ve all seen status updates and thought:
What is that supposed to mean?
Wow, someone might take that the wrong way.

Get used to it and act accordingly. Especially if your career depends on it.

People get fired because of social media.

Take control of your social media profile

If there is something you don’t want an employer to see, DON’T POST IT ONLINE WHERE THEY CAN EASILY SEE IT.

Change your social media account privacy settings.

On Facebook, you can create lists of friends. Use these to segment your Facebook friends into groups like school buddies, work, professional, etc. As you post, select which friend groups you want to be able see each update.

Facebook’s automated lists are tied to interests like school, work, and location, as well as frequency of contact. You can edit these lists and create new ones from the Friends settings section.[4]

If any of your social media “friends” may negatively impact your career, casually unfriend, or block them from seeing your posts before you have problems.

Most of all, think before you post.

If think your social media activity may negatively affect your career or job opportunities, learn how to fix and manage your online reputation.

References and Footnotes

  1. Could a New "Social Media Background Check" Cost You the Job? - MonsterCollege™
  2. Start-Up Handles Social Media Background Checks -
  3. Employer Access to Social Media Passwords Legislation - National Conference of State Legislatures
  4. How to Configure Your Facebook Privacy to Avoid Getting Fired - Yahoo! Tech
  5. Controlling Your Visibility - Instagram Help Center
  6. About public and protected Tweets - Twitter Help Center
  7. The LinkedIn Settings Mistakes Most People Still Make - Forbes
  8. How to Configure Your Facebook Privacy to Avoid Getting Fired - Yahoo! Tech