Thursday, July 3, 2014

Social Media Mistakes

Wait! Are You Sure You Want to Post That?


A little over a year ago, I posted an article on this blog about the advantages and disadvantages of employers using social media to vet applicants or check on employees. I had a companion post about the dangers to employees, or prospective employees posed by what shows up under their name on the internet. It seems that things haven’t changed much (not that most of us expect it would). If anything, it may have gotten worse, with people being totally indiscriminate in what they say and do (and then show!) on the internet via various social media channels.

CareerBuilder has once again released a survey showing an increase in employers who use social media rejecting candidates based on what was found online – 51% compared to 43% in the same survey last year; and last year’s figure was a 9% jump over the previous year.

Forty-three percent of employers say they use social networking sites to research job candidates. Many don’t limit their searches to just social networking sites, but include using search engines like Google.

It used to be a more distinct line between our personal and professional lives. That line has become much more transparent over the past decade or so. While that may have some positive aspects, it can’t be argued that it has also caused many a headache for both employers and employees.

What are they finding that they don’t like?

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs or information – 46%
  • Information about drinking or using drugs – 41%
  • Bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee – 36%
  • Poor communication skills – 32%
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, gender, and religion etc. – 28%
  • Lied about qualifications – 25%
  • Shared confidential information from previous employers – 24%
  • Linked to criminal behavior – 22%
  • Screen name was unprofessional – 21%
  • Lied about an absence – 13%

Yikes! That’s an awful lot of folks sabotaging their own job opportunities and careers. It’s not like there haven’t been many examples, widely reported in the media, that should give anyone reason to be more cautious of what they post on the internet.

Anyone remember the PR exec canned after she posted somewhat racist and discriminatory "joke" on her way to Africa? She was canned before the plane landed. How about the voice of Aflac? His insensitive joke after the Japanese tsunami left him struggling even while he had been working on a come-back – took all of an hour to come crashing down on him. And then there’s Adam Richman. After being called out because he made a rather thoughtless (although I’m sure, rather innocent) link of his recent weight loss to a hashtag associated with pro-eating disorder messages, he lashed out in an obscene and violent manner. Travel Channel didn’t like that too much - having its brand associated with someone who would suggest his detractors should commit suicide – and have removed his new show Man Finds Food, from the schedule.

How about a few average-type person examples?

Bartender Jessica Elizabeth found out her employer didn’t care for her racist and derogatory online diatribe.

Teacher Carly McKinney was suspended, and later fired, when the school system found her tweets containing revealing photos of her and bragging about bringing marijuana to school.

Utility Service Rep Rachel Burnett probably regretted her posts about utility customers she was hired to assist when her employer decided she probably wasn’t the most appropriate representative for their company.

Or how about the guys who worked for Taco Bell and KFC who decided it was funny to post pictures of themselves – ummm- mishandling – food? I’ll let you look those up for yourselves.

I could tell you about the examples of which I’m personally aware…………….like the young ladies who posted a video of themselves driving and smoking the biggest darn blunt. Or one of those same ladies who tweeted (while at work) that she and her mother were stinking drunk just a mere hours before she came to work that night. Yeah, that inspires a lot of confidence that she can do her job caring for people with disabilities. How about the one where the employee posts on Facebook that she took her clients to a party where alcohol was, uh, rather generously consumed? I got a million of ‘em.

Despite this survey, people should not think that their employer or prospective employer actually makes an effort to find these things online. As an HR pro, I don’t go looking for it. I didn’t really want to know, until it became clear that not knowing put my company, or our clients, at risk. In every case that I recall, someone else brought the post to our attention; either a co-worker of the clueless poster or a friend of an applicant alerted us to things they saw online.

My point is that despite all the examples, spread all over the media – including social media – people persist in failing big time when it comes to their judgment or restraint in posting this stuff. Get a clue. Don’t "overshare" and don’t think that only your friends (who think you’re cool and don’t care that you spend too much time getting high, driving drunk or breaking any number of other laws) see what you do online. Nothing on the internet is ever really private. The World Wide Web has given us many good things, but it also has allowed everyone the ability to see our every bad habit, foible and totally disgusting behavior. Don’t be surprised if that results in unintended consequences.

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