Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter have significantly changed the job search landscape; in most ways, for the better. However, as demonstrated in today’s New York Times, there are definite pitfalls. The article focuses on the problems that can arise in a corporate marketing environment and the impact ill-advised tweets can have on an organization’s reputation. The same risks exist for job seekers.
As a job seeker, you are marketing yourself — your personal brand — to employers. You do not want to do or say anything that jeopardizes your brand. Most people assume that only applies to a job-search and/or interviewing situation. And for the most part it does. However, in the new world of social media, your exposure increases exponentially. Social media sites — Twitter, in particular — encourage users to post spontaneous thoughts and observations. And too many people do, without giving it a second thought. The danger of continuing this type of unfettered and uncensored communication is that a prospective employer may find it. Even the most innocuous post can lead to trouble because prospective employers don’t have any context with which to interpret it, so they will interpret it in whatever way they see fit, and that way may not reflect kindly on your candidacy.
A common mistake that many Twitter and Facebook users make is using their status to vent about their current or former employer. This does not always end well, as one employee for a ambulance service company found after posting disparaging comments about her supervisor on Facebook. In her case, a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board led to a settlement with the company, but it took over one year and it is not clear whether the employee was given back her job. There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this specific situation: as a union employee with a contract, she was afforded protections that most employees working in at-will employment states do not enjoy. Additionally, even if the settlement was in her favor, how do you think prospective employers in the future will perceive the incident — not only the negative Facebook comments, but the fact that she filed a complaint against her employer? If they discover it, and odd’s are they will, they are unlikely to ask for her side of the story. They will simply move on to the next candidate, of which there are many in this economy.
So, I guess the lesson here is think before you tweet. Never post anything on Facebook or Twitter that you would not be willing to say in front of a hiring manager.