Many of us share our victories, disappointments, and the milestones of our lives on Facebook. But sometimes we share too much – especially if we’re in the midst of a job search.
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers from being discriminated against or not hired because of a disability or chronic illness, but it’s nearly impossible to prove discrimination if your resume is passed up along with that of hundreds – or thousands – of other applicants.
“Resumes can be skipped over for any reason these days,” says Bill Fish, founder of the online reputation management resource ReputationManagement.com.
“Anyone can be eliminated at any time,” agrees Devay Campbell, CEO and founder of Career 2 Cents, a career coaching firm. “Most of the time, they never find out why.”
“Even when this discrimination is unlawful, it’s almost impossible to prove,” says Joni Holderman, owner of the resume writing firm, Thrive! Resumes. She adds that it can happen at any stage of the recruiting process. “A deep dive into a candidate’s online reputation is a standard part of the background check.”
Does your social profile scare prospective employers away or add to your sparkle? Read on and see if you’re guilty of any of these five Facebook sins.
1 – Strong Political Views
It’s probably common sense to keep strong opinions about divisive topics like abortion and immigration off your Facebook feed, but speaking out on less mainstream issues can also affect your image.
For instance, Holderman recalls a client with an MBA who had written a number of Facebook posts and online editorials in support of certain taxes on corporations in specific industries. “He was missing many opportunities because the prospective employers did not want to be perceived as publicly supporting his political views – or any set of political views,” says Holderman.
2 – Drug Use
A number of HR professionals and career coaches advise against any references to drug use, understandably. “Frankly, it’s too much of a headache to deal with if someone is open enough to talk about their drug use – even marijuana – on social media,” says Fish.
However, most professionals also agree that references to alcohol, in moderation in social settings, are fine. Bottom line: Share that glass-of-wine-at-an-upscale- steakhouse photo, but nix the one where you were drunk in a pirate costume during spring break.
3 – Financial Difficulties
Those fancy steakhouse photos might actually improve your chances of getting a call from a recruiter. “A lot of jobs check credit and believe people who are financially sound are the best candidates,” says Campbell.
The flipside, of course, is to keep your money worries off Facebook, where they could cast doubt in hiring managers’ minds. “I recently saw a person discussing car trouble and asking for a ride to work,” says Campbell. If she were looking for a job, it might make her prospective employer wonder.
This goes double if you handle cash, accounts, or expensive tools, or if you have access to high profile clients or trade secrets. “Your financial history will be in question,” warns Campbell.
4 – Chronic Health Problems – In Yourself or Close Family Members
If you have a chronic illness or are caring for someone who does, you might look to Facebook as a support network or use the platform to raise awareness for the disease. But think twice if you’re also looking for a job. “I once had a client who was very vocal on Facebook about the fact that he was a single parent with four daughters under the age of 10, all with Type 1 diabetes,” says Holderman.
Want proof it was holding him back? “We almost instantly saw a jump in interest from recruiters and an increase in job interviews after he removed the information.”
Although this type of discrimination is illegal, employers have sound financial reasons to bypass candidates who reveal medical issues. “Employees of a company are in a risk pool together, as far as health insurance costs are concerned. One employee who needs chemotherapy or a heart transplant can drive up next year’s premiums for the whole company, impacting the bottom line,” explains Holderman. “HR execs see it as controlling benefit costs, an essential function of their job.”
Likewise, if your Facebook profile reveals that you are consumed with life as a caregiver, HR directors may wonder how many days off you’ll need. “They may even feel guilty about taking you away from that situation,” says Campbell, reminding us that HR professionals are only human and, if they have doubts about a candidate’s ability or availability, they will err in favor of the company.
5 – Anything That Doesn’t Look Quite Right
Before you panic about every detail on your timeline, take a high-level view. What does your profile say about you as a person? “When I am researching a candidate, I go to social media to learn about them to lighten up the conversation,” explains Fish. “If I saw they went to a Beyonce’ concert, I’d ask them about it. It puts them at ease while letting them know we did our research.”
But make sure your profile doesn’t put the wrong questions in your interviewer’s mind, which is exactly what happened to one of Holderman’s former clients. “I worked with a CEO client in the very conservative insurance sector. As a hobby, he had invented and patented a unique aiming device for snowboarding. Unfortunately, his Facebook profile photo showed him wearing this headgear, which looked like a very elaborate, colorful tin foil hat with antenna.”
Noting that the photo raised doubts about his mental health, Holderman says, “I was never able to convince him to change the photo and I believe he’s still looking for a job.”
Remember: It’s All Public
While it may seem like an “easy out” to lock down your Facebook profile to friends only, this isn’t a surefire way to keep prospective employers from seeing your bizarre hobbies or your private side. “It’s very common in today’s job market for the candidate to be asked to ‘friend’ the interviewer on Facebook,” says Holderman.
Of course, you have the option to refuse to accept a prospective employer’s friend request — and the employer has an option not to hire you, as Holderman points out.
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