According to recent surveys, 70% of HR workers surveyed in the US admitted to rejecting a job applicant because of their behavior online. For the most part, these “Internet behaviors” refer to posting inappropriate photos and content on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. In addition to not getting the job, there are countless cases of employees posting about their shitty bosses or how they wish a co-worker would drop dead in the office. Whether you’re looking for a job or love the perks of having a job, how should you handle social media so it doesn’t ruin your life?

If you were an employer, you would!

Let’s not point fingers and label employers “evil” for looking us up on the internet. The fact is that we live in a different era than people lived just 15 years ago. Information about anything, or anyone, is available 24 hours a day to anyone who wants to know, including your employers. Can you blame them? Suppose you are in charge of hiring a new employee and you interview three candidates. You go home, jump to the computer to see what your friends have posted on Facebook. The temptation is irresistible. All you have to do is type in the names of the applicants and presto, you’ll get an instant perspective on how these people really live, as opposed to how they presented themselves during the interview. And here’s the thing. During the interview process, all three candidates seemed very capable for the job and all three seemed very professional. (It’s not that hard to act professionally and responsibly in a thirty-minute interview.) After searching through each of their Facebook profiles, she quickly notices that two of the applicants seem to be having too much fun and saying very inappropriate things, while one of the applicants has a private profile. How will this affect your hiring decision?

How to handle social media so you don’t get screwed

If you’re still in college and not yet looking for real job opportunities, then by all means post all your drunk photos and outrageous comments. Who cares? However, the moment you start looking for a real job, or even an internship, you need to start being responsible with your posts.

If you think you might have content online that could jeopardize your hiring, the first thing you should do is make all of your online profiles private, especially Facebook. Facebook currently dominates the social media scene with a whopping 300 million users. There’s a good chance your potential employers are smart enough to dig up your dirt on Facebook. Once you’ve landed a new job, never post anything negative about the company you work for, your co-workers, or your bosses, period. All it takes is one negative comment to change the way your co-workers and superiors think of you, which could definitely affect your career.

On the other hand, your online presence can also help your career. If you’re active in charities or nonprofit groups, or regularly blog about content relevant to your career, be sure to take steps to make those activities as visible and accessible as possible.

Good luck!

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