In a world where we can document and share nearly any event with a device that fits in our pockets, what doesn’t end up on social media?
With Instagram, we capture the highlights of our lives and maybe even show off some photography skills.
With Twitter, we broadcast our unrestricted thoughts and memes. Facebook exists solely for our school’s confessions page.
Our lives and social media are becoming increasingly entangled as the years go by.
It is for this very reason that so many companies do a thorough social media check before even bringing a prospective hire in for an interview.
Just how prevalent is this practice of social media investigation?
Time magazine has reported that as many as 93 percent of hiring managers will check a prospective hire’s social media.
According to PRNewswire, in 2006, only 11 percent of employers used social media to screen candidates.
Eleven years later, that number has skyrocketed to 70 percent of employers screening their candidates via social media. 57 percent of employers have stated that they were less likely to interview a candidate they could not find online.
The most startling figure regarding these social media sleuths though is that 54 percent of employers have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles.
It seems that social media does more now than just feature your life online; it can actually affect your livelihood in a serious way.
Your social media accounts could be the factor that gets you that job you’ve been wanting and preparing for, or the factor that prevents you from even getting an interview, regardless of your qualifications.
Should this be the case though?
Should employers be looking at social media profiles and evaluating this information, information that can be so easily misinterpreted?
Legally, employers are free to examine your social media. If you have an open and public account that can be viewed by anyone, why would an employer not want to at least check it out? That’s common sense.
But what if you go private?
Every form of social media has some sort of “private option,” where unknown users are restricted from seeing your profile until you have accepted them.
This doesn’t seem to stop employers though.
Even with your account set to private, employers can still find your comments and tags with your friends if their accounts are not set to private.
You are not private unless every one of your friends is as well; but what right do you have to tell your friends to set their accounts to private just so that your social media page cannot be found by a potential employer?
It is this point that leaves us in dangerous territory; there is no way to guarantee total online privacy, and companies are taking advantage of it.
Social media is an arena that employers now dominate. Though the employers merely observe and evaluate content, and the social media sites themselves may have loose restrictions on what is posted, employers have essentially forced those in need of a job to regulate their own content.
According to Careerbuilder, some of the top red-flags that employers look for on social media are as follows:
1. Provocative or inappropriate pictures/videos/information.
2. References to drinking or drugs.
3. Discriminatory comments.
4. Bad-mouthing previous employers, employees, or co-workers.
6. Poor communications skills.
7. Links to criminal behavior.
8. Unprofessional screen names.
While some of these are serious, such as criminal behavior and discriminatory comments (which should be handled by the social media platform), most of these “red-flags” are things that I believe fall under free speech.
If someone had a bad experience at their previous job, why shouldn’t they be able to badmouth the company or its workers? So what if someone has a silly screen name?
Even if its petty, goofy or borderline unprofessional, social media exists as a platform for free speech, yet companies have essentially turned it into the opposite.
Unfortunately, It seems companies are set in this practice.
The only option is to be careful about what you post, even after getting the job.
Just remember: They’re watching.