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Hey Job Applicants, Time to Stop the Social-Media Sabotage

48 percent of candidates had information about them drinking or using drugs on social media outlets

Photograph by Nathan Perkel/Gallery Stock

48 percent of candidates had information about them drinking or using drugs on social media outlets

Think before you post, especially if you’re looking for a job. Seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Yet despite all the advice and warnings to be cautious with social media, job applicants continue to get burned by their online profiles.

Many companies now search candidates’ social-media accounts to get a better feel for their personalities, to see if they have creative flair, and to find out how well they communicate. Done right, your profile can work in your favor. Of 2,184 hiring managers recently surveyed by CareerBuilder, one-fifth said a candidate’s online profile helped them land a position. More often, though, it backfires: 43 percent said they found information that led them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year. That trend means either that more job applicants are behaving badly online or that human resources is getting stricter in sniffing out problems.

The most commonly spotted red flags, according to the survey:

• Racy Photos: The crotch shot needs to die. Half of surveyed managers found provocative or inappropriate photos and info about candidates by reviewing their social-media updates.
• Booze: That album of your reckless Cancun vacation? Make it private. About 48 percent discovered info about the candidate drinking or using drugs on social-media sites.
• Crazy Ranting: That nickname you call your boss should be nowhere to be found on your Twitter feed. One-third found applicants had bad-mouthed a previous employer.
• OMG i h8 inglish: Thirty percent said the candidate had poor communication skills.
• Intolerance: About 28 percent of managers spotted discriminatory comments about race, gender, and religion.
• Lies: Did you really get degrees in Celtic languages and stem cell biology at Harvard? Just under one-fourth discovered candidates had misrepresented their qualifications through their online profiles.

So as long as you want to be employable, it would be wise to restrain your social-media posts so that they’re HR friendly. Most of your friends probably didn’t want to see those racy pics either.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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