Tis the season for holiday parties and, for job seekers at least, the season to ensure that your personal brand is not undermined by ill-advised social media blunders that occur during the revelry. You may have seen all these rules before, but they bear repeating during the holiday season, when you need to enjoy celebrations along with a good healthy dose of common sense, especially when it comes to social media.
We have all seen the surveys that show most hiring managers use social media as a tool to research candidates—so it’s important to use social media in ways that can help you create a strong personal brand—not undermine it. And consider this: Unless you are applying for job in social media, it is extremely unlikely that a lack of discoverable information about you on social platforms could ever hurt your candidacy for a job. However one ill-advised post from a single moment of poor judgment can be awfully difficult to eradicate.
The best rule of the thumb is to avoid posting any content –posts or photos—that you would not want to show off at your next interview. We often tell people not to write anything that they would not be willing to see on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.
What, specifically, should you avoid?
• Avoid disparagement. Remember when you were a kid, and your mom was always saying: If you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all? Well, she was right. And this should be the GOLDEN RULE of social media posts for job seekers, because nothing turns a hiring manager off faster than finding a job candidate who is disparaging their company or co-workers. (And remember, if a hiring manager can see it, so can your current boss, so this advice really does fall into the common sense category!)
• Avoid any content that could be even slightly construed as bigoted or promoting discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. It’s illegal, it’s wrong, and it will ruin your personal brand quicker than you can say “horrible judgment!” And given the choice of two equally qualified candidates, hiring managers will be looking for a tie-breaker.
• Avoid photos or posts that contain content related alcohol, drugs, or any behavior that looks dangerous or illegal. If you are enjoying a drink at a holiday party, we are certain you can enjoy it without posting a photo of yourself enjoying it. And tell your friends to skip posts that involve you, too. You don’t need libations documentation on your friends’ social media channels, whether they are tagged or not.
• Avoid the check-in. Your community does not need to know where you are at all times. If you can resist checking in, you won’t have to worry about what your hiring manager may conclude from a string of club check-ins from the wee hours. This might be the only week of the year you were out every night, but your prospective employer does not know this. Whatever happened to maintaining a little mystery?
• Avoid sharing TMI about your current or former employer. There is just no need for you to stray into this minefield. Are you sharing proprietary information—because insider information is very serious for all sorts of reasons—or are you just sharing TMI about your employer? Just don’t. It shows bad taste, bad judgment, disloyalty—all the things you’d rather not have attached to your name.
• Avoid content that is not G-rated. Provocative photos will not help build your personal brand, unless your personal brand is based on provocative photos. Is it?
• Avoid posting anything that calls your literacy into question. We all make the odd typo, but take a good look at your posts and if you consistently make serious spelling and grammatical errors, you need to either post less or improve your language skills, or both.
Hiring managers want to find candidates they feel will be good representatives of their organization. And they certainly don’t want the headache of dealing with employees who have terrible judgment or risky personal behavior.
Controlling the content you post and the content others post about you on social media is key to protecting your personal brand. We’ll present a new series for job seekers on establishing, nurturing, and even repairing your personal brand during the first months of the New Year. For now, during your holiday celebrations, just approach your personal brand as if you were a physician: First, Do no harm.
Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!