Is social media ruining your career prospects?

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'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all' - or so the saying goes. Of course, in the age of social media, the chances of anyone saying nothing at all is very slim indeed. One only has to scan the average street for pedestrians gazing hypnotically at their screens to know exactly how many people are saying something, anything, at any given moment.

But so what? Does that river of comment and opinion really have any negative impact (trolling aside). Well, ; it seems genuine damage can be causednot least of all to the person doing the posting. New research from staffing firm OfficeTeam shows that hiring managers check candidates' social feeds as a matter of course. What's more, if they see something they don't like, then it's likely they'll remove the applicant from the application process.

45% of managers cited negative comments as a problem.

When asked about the most common social media mistakes that reflect badly on a job-seeker:

  •  45% of HR managers cited writing negative or inappropriate comments.
  • 35% said posting or being tagged in questionable photos is the dodgiest digital faux pas.

The survey of HR managers was developed by OfficeTeam, and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 300 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees. The managers were asked, "In your opinion, what is the most common social media mistake professionals make that reduces their chances of being hired?" Here's what they said:

  • Posting negative or inappropriate comments: 45%
  • Posting or being tagged in inappropriate or risque photos: 35%
  • Not posting regularly; having incomplete, dated or no social media profiles: 17%
  • Other/don't know: 3%

People often believe posting on social media is just harmless fun.

"People often believe posting on social media is just harmless fun, but in reality, employers frequently look online to learn about prospective hires," said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. "Professionals should think beyond eliminating unflattering content from their digital accounts to how they can 'wow' hiring managers by showcasing career accomplishments and industry involvement."

OfficeTeam have identified five professional types who commit social media bloopers and provide tips to help avoid the pitfalls:

1. The Cranky Critic isn't shy about sharing off-putting remarks with the world. No subject is off limits, including former colleagues and politics.
Advice: Exercise discretion when posting on social networking sites, blogs or online communities. You never know who might see or take offence at your comments.

2. The Superfluous Selfie Poster has no shortage of social media photos, but they're not exactly always office-appropriate, and there are enough of them to suggest an inflated ego.
Advice: Remove or untag yourself from any images that may raise eyebrows. Use a polished profile photograph.

"Be aware that certain topics may make you appear unprofessional."

3. The TMI (Too Much Information) Transgressor posts every detail when attending a party, playing a game or taking an online quiz, whether you care to know or not.
Advice: Be aware that certain topics may make you appear unprofessional. Use your best judgment when sharing status updates and check your privacy settings to control who in your network has access to what information.

4. The Connection Counter invites just about anyone to join his or her network. When it comes to social media contacts, this person favours quantity over quality.
Advice: Be selective about who you connect with and focus on fostering meaningful professional relationships. Having the right people in your network can help advance your career, and potential employers may also approach these individuals to learn more about you.

5. The Nonchalant Networker takes a lackadaisical approach to social media. This individual's online profiles are sparse, and updates are few and far between.
Advice: Highlight your work history and accomplishments on sites like LinkedIn. Consider including key terms that describe your skills and experience to help employers more easily find you. Show an interest in your industry by participating in relevant web groups and forums.

In short, always be aware that your Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/You Tube profile may already be taking part in an interview long before you even set foot in the door of a potential employer. You have been warned.


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