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These Social Media Mistakes Are Hurting Job Applicants

Ah, social media. The virtual downfall of people everywhere. But which social media mistakes are the most likely to hurt a job search? A new survey offers a few insights into what not to write!

OfficeTeam asked more than 300 HR managers to hashtag the most common social media mistakes job seekers make, and let's just say that you might want to withhold your most sarcastic, from-mind-to-keyboard criticisms if you're looking for a job.

More than four in 10 HR managers (45%) put "negative or inappropriate comments" first on their list of social media snafus that will disqualify a job applicant up front. Oops, was it something we said?

Slightly more than one in three HR managers (35%) said that "questionable" photos, or being tagged in one, would disqualify a job applicant from consideration. Well, pictures do say a 1,000 words, right?

Meanwhile, 17% of HR managers surveyed said an incomplete social media footprint -- as in, not updating frequently, not looking social media savvy, or (gasp!) not being on social media at all -- is a job applicant's big ticket to nowhere on the job hunt.

Of course, this means that a well-crafted social media footprint isn't the number-one criteria for 83% of HR managers surveyed. So don't feel like you have to update your Facebook page today if you don't feel like it.

What have we learned here? In sum, if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all. Think twice before posting photos of yourself in compromising positions. Block your "friends" from tagging you on Facebook if you must. Think ahead, not just in the moment. Is this something you would want a random HR manager to see?

My concern in using social media to weed out job applicants is its tendency to create only more questions. For instance, a hiring manager might Google an applicant and the first thing that comes up are party photos. Is this applicant simply sociable with many friends (not a bad trait in an employee), or is she a hard-core partier with a developing drinking problem (not as good of a trait in an employee)?

The only way the hiring manager can really find out is by calling the job applicant's references, or by speaking with the job applicant herself. Social media isn't our real selves; it's a manufactured image we want to present to the world. So who is this otherwise promising job applicant, really? Managers might need to dig deeper than a Google search.

Using social media to weed out applicants will only get more and more time consuming, too. We have an entire generation coming up whose lives are being documented on social media from the moment they're born to their first day of school to their prom nights. Ten years from now, HR managers will be digging up old updates revealing a job applicant's tired preschool tantrum at Disney World, as well as detailed posts about his or her health problems (thanks, Mom). How will these findings factor into the hiring process of 2026? Let's glimpse the future:

I thought this guy would make a great hire, until I read a post his mom wrote on Facebook way back in 2016 about how he wouldn't put down the gaming remote to help her shovel the driveway when it snowed. We're looking for responsible, motivated hires. Also, his mom wrote all about his allergy and asthma problems, and, well...

The next generation will be bringing their parents to work in more ways than one. It will be fascinating to see how the hiring process changes over the next ten years to accommodate the workplace arrival of Generation Z. If you think the Millennials are tech savvy, you haven't seen anything yet.


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