Employers will scope you out online at some point during the screening and hiring process. What you consider hidden behind a curtain of privacy may not be. Your personal status updates may be impacting your ability to land your next job. Keep your discussions free from these damaging mentions.
1. Just say no to drugs. Referencing illegal drugs is the most damaging thing you can do to your job search. According to Jobvite's 2013 Social Recruiting Survey, more than 80 percent of recruiters said seeing mentions of illegal drugs in a candidate's social updates left a negative impression. Stay away from any mention of drugs, even if you're joking, or run the risk of ruining your reputation.
2. Sex sells, but not in a job search. Next in line for topics to avoid are tweets or posts of a sexual nature. While it may be funny to your friends, that joking status update or tweet is most likely offensive to others and damaging. You wouldn't dare send that joke, photo or link in an email to your boss, so keep it out of your social networking stream.
3. Don't drink and share. We all know that drinking and driving don't mix. The same holds true for sharing photos or status updates about that great party or overindulging Saturday night bash and your job search. These types of updates may not be as harmful as the others mentioned, however, you still want to keep your stream alcohol-free.
4. Swear at your own peril. Employers have little tolerance for the use of profanity online. According to Jobvite, 65 percent of recruiters viewed status updates containing profanity negatively, putting it in the top three things not to do. Profanity is unprofessional, offensive and wouldn't be tolerated in most workplaces. As old fashioned as this may sound, keep your language clean.
5. Spelling counts. You may think your status update doesn't need to be typo-free, but spelling and grammar do matter. A quick scan of error-ridden updates either shows a lack of attention to detail or poor writing skills. In fact, the recent study notes: "More recruiters react negatively to profanity (65%) and grammar and punctuation errors in posts/tweets (61%) than references to alcohol use (47%)."
6. Guns aren't good either. People's attitudes about gun ownership and usage vary widely. Where someone lives and whether he or she is rural or urban may also impact how they perceive guns. You should know that most hiring entities negatively view references to guns, so conceal those weapons.
Invasive or pervasive?
Some may say that employers shouldn't be allowed to scrutinize private or personal updates on social networks. And some feel that it isn't fair to evaluate personal lives to determine professional qualifications. We are crossing into new territory where your lifestyle and perceived professionalism are both fair game if you put it out there on social networking sites. In the survey, almost half of the recruiters and hiring entities said they have reconsidered a candidate based on content viewed in a social profile, leading to both positive and negative re-assessments.
Instead of viewing this as pervasive, embrace the opportunity to publicly promote the best you have to offer. Include references to nonprofit organizations you support and activities you're involved in to highlight your assets.
Just remember, we don't all live in Vegas where what's said there stays there. Be smart and aware about what you are sharing online and know that someone is checking you out. Don't give them reason to turn away.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.