Social media has become an incredible mainstay of modern society: it enables people to stay connected, share feelings and experiences in real time, and also stay updated on favorite or frequented locales.

Of course, this modern innovation has its downside as well. Most of us have heard about dark stories of social media, with news reports of people committing crimes or other awful offenses and sharing them on Periscope, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. Most of us also have the wherewithal to A.) Not commit crimes or other heinous offenses in the first place, or B.) not share that type of content with the entire world.

However, what you do share or post on social media doesn’t have to be an egregious or law-breaking act to catch someone’s watchful eye. In this case, we are talking about hiring managers, HR departments, your boss, or even your coworkers. Though you may think you’re posting or sharing something socially acceptable or “just for fun,” it could unintentionally clash or send a red flag to your employer. Think they’ll never see or hear about it? Don’t be so sure.

ESG reviews the importance of maintaining professionalism on all of your social media accounts, regardless of your privacy settings.

Web Trails Tell a Tale

A 2016 survey from indicates that in the modern job market, 60% of companies use social networking sites to research their candidates. While most are just looking for verification of skills or experience outlined in candidates’ resumes/CVs, employers may come across other variables that could influence their decision whether or not to hire a particular person, regardless of their credentials. That same survey indicates that 30% of companies are looking at what other people are saying about the candidate, and 21% admit to using social media for any reasons not to hire someone.

These are the top varieties of content that employers were turned off by:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos, or information
  • Information about a candidate engaging in drinking or drug use
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.
  • Candidate bad-mouthing previous company or fellow employee
  • Poor communication skills


In addition to looking at prospective employees, employers sometimes keep an eye on current employees as well.

The World is Watching: Look Professional.

We’ve all had bad days at work. However, social media is not the place to vent about those issues, especially if anything along the lines of “I hate my boss,” “My job sucks,” “My coworker is a jerk” or worse could possibly flow through your fingers to the screen. Refer to the next section on degrees of separation; it’s all the more reason to be careful what you say and to whom you say it. Angsty expressions about work are best saved for a close friend or confidante whom you can trust.

Of course, your posts don’t have to be related to work to send up a red flag. An inside joke, an offhanded comment, or dark/morbid humor can also rub people the wrong way if they misunderstand the context, which is easy to do when you’re not interacting in person.

Many of us also enjoy sharing the fun we have in our off-time, but in maintaining a professional posture, think twice about the kinds of recreational activities you may post about. There’s a big difference between a classy photo of you and your friends wine tasting or toasting a birthday versus those college keg stand photos. The culture of a potential or current company and/or clients may not have the same idea of “fun” as you do, so it is especially important to keep those things in mind.

The key is, if you have to think about whether or not it’s a good idea to post, it’s probably not.

Three Degrees of Separation

Gen Xers and some Millennials may remember the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” where you could potentially discover a connection to the actor from knowing someone who knows someone else, who knows someone else – six times over until you reach Kevin Bacon. The game was based on an original 1929 theory that any two people or things in the world are no further than 6 connections apart. However, these days, six has gone down to just three, largely due to globalization and the internet.

Why does this matter? Consider your social media accounts. You may have your privacy settings on high and are even fairly conscious of the audience that sees your posts. However, you may not realize that the cousin of the new Facebook friend you just made works in the corporate HR department of the company with whom you’re employed. Or that the brother-in-law of your cousin golfs with the CEO of the branch you’re eyeing for a transfer. Maybe your friend’s aunt is the hiring manager in a firm you’ve been itching to get into. Word of mouth could have you suffering the consequences of your actions or behavior on social media, regardless of who you thought your audience was.

Stay Positive

The last piece of advice doesn’t even have so much to do with the actual content shared, but the tone and personality presented on your social media profiles. Take a step back and think or take a look at the type of posts you make, even ask a trusted friend. What is the overall tone? The general public – bosses, co-workers, and hiring managers included – tire of seeing continuous negativity. On a broader scale, a company doesn’t want to be associated with someone who fosters negativity and bad energy, which can bring their image down.

Remember, employees are an extension of the company for which they work. The image and persona you present could help give someone a good or bad impression of your employer.

The Bottom Line

Though your personal social media accounts may be intended as an intimate, dynamic snapshot of your life, it is important to realize the obligations and responsibilities that come in sharing that snapshot with a broader audience.

Companies invest a lot of resources and effort to design the type of image and branding they want their name to represent in order to entice their targeted clientele. With the ease of modern networking and interconnectedness, employers are taking proactive measures to ensure their reputation is safeguarded against unpredictable variables, such as employees with too little discretion. If the content on your social media profiles is polarizing, indulgent or in otherwise questionable taste, you could be setting yourself up for an informal blacklisting from potential employers, or job termination if you are currently employed.

With the politically-charged climate these days, it is especially important to be cognizant of how your social media content can reflect upon you. Companies need to make their bottom line and many are willing to avoid or eliminate any risk to that objective.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffett