Your Social Media Account Can Hurt Your Job Search and Future Career: Here’s How to Make Sure It Doesn’t

How can you maintain your professional image? Taking classes and gaining certifications is just the start. You must be a reliable worker and get along well with your co-workers. It’s also important to avoid controversy. However, some people have a hard time being the same person in and out of work.  

They have this sense of freedom in expressing themselves through social media that may appear harmless to their friends and family, but this can harm their professional image to potential employers. Thus, the phrase “think before you click” has never been more important, especially for those working to advance their careers. They may find out the hard way that their online image affects how they will be accepted or rejected in the workplace.  

The aim of this post is to build an awareness of how your social media presence can be helpful or detrimental to your chances of getting employed. As a prospective candidate, taking the advice provided here to heart is essential so that your credentials won’t be questioned when an employer conducts a social media background check. 

What is a Social Media Background Check? 

A potential employer may be impressed if you do well during an interview and testing, but that’s not always the end of the screening process. Yes, a potential employer might ask for references to learn more about you and how you work with others, but they might take it one step further by doing social media background checks. This is when the employer will look into your social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, to examine further if there is anything about you that the employer must know before offering you a job.  

Social media screening shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. With 4.33 billion social media users across the globe, and 90 percent showing monthly activity, social media is a valuable source of information about potential hires. There are many things that an organization might uncover about individuals wanting a place in their workforce, including: 

  • Unlawful activity. Examples of such include substance use or underage drinking.  
  • Discriminatory comments. In an age when diversity and inclusion are being championed, prejudiced social media comments won’t fly with potential employers.  
  • Aggressive/questionable behavior. Social media accounts used for trolling or to support radical opinions on the internet can be a red flag for companies.   
  • Anything that doesn’t support company culture. It’s so easy for a potential employer to be swung by a job candidate’s performance during the hiring process, but mindful recruiters know better. How applicants portray themselves through social media accounts may reveal something that supports or goes against the company’s values. It’s better to find out early on rather than after they’ve been hired. 

Some people have already lost their jobs or chance of employment because of careless social media posts. Without mindfulness of what comes from your fingertips and into the world wide web, your social media presence can be affected. After all, there’s no guarantee that what you put on the net can be removed

Is Social Media Screening Legal? 

Yes, but it has to be done lawfully. Evaluating a candidate and their activity on social media may appear invasive, but it has its value. For example, in industries that work closely with children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities, background checks must be extensive, which is why a social media check is imperative. In addition, for those who wonder whether HR professionals or company leaders can use social media to come up with a hiring decision, it’s completely okay, provided that:  

  • The candidate won’t be subject to discrimination. Rest assured that your cultural background, age, gender, and so on cannot be used as reasons for not hiring you, as supported by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  
  • The privacy of the candidate will be respected. Whatever publicly available information is out there about you, that is the only information potential employers can look at to evaluate your fit as a job applicant. There are social media laws protecting you from companies digging too far to get info, such as asking for passwords or hacking their way through your accounts.   

While there is comfort in knowing that hiring managers and the like have boundaries in the extent of their social media screening, please still be mindful of what you put out there for the world to see. Remember: whatever you post publicly can be used against you. This is why it bears repeating: think before you click.   

What are Other Ways to Keep Your Social Media Profile Looking Good?  

You might think a thorough review of your social media presence is the best way to ensure employers won’t doubt your place in their company. To ease your mind, remember recruiters can only see comments and posts that are set to “public” and connected to your name. However, reviewing all the social media sites you’ve been on could be time-consuming. Check out these suggestions instead: 

  • Do a social media check for yourself. Why not put yourself in the employer’s shoes? To do this, search your name on Google and see what results come up. You’ll find your social media accounts and any other websites that have published your name. For example, a city website listing an award you have received could appear in the search results. There are also features in social media platforms that allow access to how non-connections see you from the outside, like on Facebook.  
  • Make your LinkedIn account active. To begin with, don’t be too private. We suggest you make your LinkedIn account as lively as possible. You can do many things on LinkedIn to advance your career, and all these activities will let potential recruiters get to know you better professionally.  
  • Use decent display photos on all accounts. While you may be proud of your weight loss journey or that recent trip to the beach, you may leave bragging about them in more private posts. Experts say a good profile photo works wonders for your online reputation and branding. Photos from the neck up are best, plus having a decent smile and contrasting background color enhances how you can be perceived on the profile photo alone.   
  • Be strategic with your public posts moving forward. Checking how your accounts appear publicly once in a while is a good way to stay out of trouble, whether you are applying for a job or not. While expressing opinions is encouraged for discourse, consider doing so in safer spaces, like private chats or live conversations with friends over coffee. While you’ll never know whose feathers you’ll ruffle, it’s best to put your professional image upfront. 


If you are a job seeker searching for a staffing agency that can best support you in pursuing your dream job in the tech industry, Focus People is the one for you. We will help you with a holistic job search that considers your preferences and unique personality, and we’ll always keep you informed of where you stand in the recruitment journey.   

Our efforts in guiding you won’t end at employment, as we have Happiness Coordinators who will stay in touch with you to see how you are doing. Our Candidate Net Promoter Score of 93 speaks volumes about our success in guiding candidates like yourself, so why not give your career a boost through us? Contact Focus People today because our focus is YOU. 

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