Skip to Content

Social media self-sabotage: Don’t let your past posts ruin your job-seeking chances

Social media is now second nature. In the U.S., social media use has gone from 10% in 2008 to 82% in 2021, or over 223 million U.S. users.

We’ve interwoven it into our lives so much that most of us use it several times per day, every day. It’s become so commonplace that we don’t even think twice about sending Tweets, making posts, sharing pics, and uploading videos.

Please note: Some of the links in my posts are affiliate links. I get commissions for purchases made through those links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases when you buy something from those links.

Yet our casual attitude about posting on social media can sometimes come back to haunt us. Social media activities have been damaging to people in job searches and interview outcomes.

Ever wondered whether social media status updates on channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok can hurt your chances of getting hired? Here are a few things to consider about how social media can impact your job search.

Do Employers Actually Look At Social Media Accounts?

Do Employers Actually Look At Social Media Accounts_

Can my social media hurt my job search? Our casual, everyday use of social media may have lulled us into thinking that no one is paying attention, especially if we post things without anyone appearing to respond. However, more people may be paying attention than we think, and this includes employers.

Do employers look at social media? Yes. 90% of employers include an applicant’s social media activity as part of their hiring process. Employers want to hire top talent, so they take the hiring process very seriously. Recruiters consider as many aspects of an applicant’s qualifications as possible.

Content posted to social media can be a good predictor of a candidate’s judgment, tact, decision-making, temperament, and other factors that could affect an employee’s performance.

What About Private Social Accounts? Do Employers Look At Those?

What About Private Social Accounts_ Do Employers Look At Those_

Social media has come a long way since its early days when it was nearly all open to the public. Today, you can set your social media accounts as private, controlling who can see your content. However, this may not stop employers from using social media to investigate you.

While your social media may be private, the accounts of people with whom you are connected may not be. Family and friends may post photos or videos that include you, and those posts may not have the same privacy restrictions as your accounts. With a bit of searching, employers can often find out more about you than you may have thought.

What Steps Can I Take To Make Sure That Employers Don’t See Some Of My Social Media Photos And Videos?

What Steps Can I Take To Make Sure That Employers Don’t See Some Of My Social Media Photos And Videos_

While the only way to fully prevent employers from investigating you is to completely get off all social media, this may not be desirable for you. By enabling certain privacy settings across the various social networks, you can restrict access to some of your content.

Adjusting your privacy settings on Facebook

Adjusting your privacy settings on Facebook

Can Facebook hurt my job interview? Facebook is one of the most popular social networks. The many connections we have on Facebook can make it challenging to enable more privacy on your account, but here are a few Facebook settings you can change to make the photos associated with you more private, limiting their access to others:

  • Make your Facebook photos Private
  • Hide your Facebook photos from your Friends
  • Hide the Facebook photos you’re tagged in

Adjusting your privacy settings on Instagram

Adjusting your privacy settings on Instagram

Instagram is easy to use and we can post to it with just a few taps. While you may want more privacy on your Instagram account, you may not want to delete photos just to keep people from seeing them. One way to remedy this is to hide selected photos without deleting them. This can be done with Instagram’s Archiving feature.

Archiving a photo essentially hides it until you restore it. The photo retains all its comments and likes while it is archived. Archived photos can be recovered from your profile at any time.

Adjusting your privacy settings on LinkedIn

Adjusting your privacy settings on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a more career-focused social network, so you may be a bit more particular about what you post there. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily want all of your posted content to be publicly visible. LinkedIn has some privacy settings you can adjust.

One of the main ways you can have more control over your LinkedIn account’s privacy is by managing who can follow your updates. While your 1st-degree LinkedIn connections automatically follow your posts, anyone can follow you, even if they aren’t in your network. In LinkedIn’s settings, you can limit followers to only your 1st-degree connections. You can also make ‘Follow’ the primary action members see when they view your profile page.

Adjusting your privacy settings on YouTube

Adjusting your privacy settings on YouTube

As the popularity of video on social media has grown, the popularity of YouTube has grown with it. YouTube videos are set to public by default, which lets anyone see and comment on them. But YouTube has some features that help you control the privacy of the videos you post.

You can make a YouTube video private at the time you post it or make a posted video private after you’ve posted it. Private videos are hidden from the general public and can only be seen by you. Note that you can also share private videos with specific people.

Adjusting your privacy settings on TikTok

Adjusting your privacy settings on TikTok

TikTok’s popularity has exploded in the past few years. It’s quick and easy to share videos on TikTok, so you may not be giving much thought to what you post. But TikTok does have some settings to help with this.

TikTok allows you to make videos Private or Public. A Private video is only visible to you. However, you can also set a video to Friends. This means only you, plus those that follow you and follow in return, can see the video.

Adjusting your privacy settings on Twitter

Adjusting your privacy settings on Twitter

Twitter’s short post format makes it easy to post many Tweets every day. Many of these are likely innocent, but there may be some you’d prefer to keep from public view.

While Tweets on Twitter are public by default, its settings allow you to protect and unprotect your Tweets. If you protect your Tweets, you’ll receive a request when new people want to follow you. You can approve or deny these requests to have more control over who can see your Tweets. If you approve a request, that follower can view all your Tweets.

Once You Have Adjusted Your Settings, Think Carefully About What You Post During The Search Or Interview Process

Once You Have Adjusted Your Settings, Think Carefully About What You Post During The Search Or Interview Process

Virtually every social network has settings that give you more control over the privacy of the content you post. However, the best way to ensure that a potential employer doesn’t see something you post that could be problematic for you later is to not post it online at all. Once you have all of your social network settings adjusted to your desired level of privacy, thoughtful discretion in what you post is key. Here are a few things to consider about what not to post:

  • Complaining about your current job, boss, or co-workers shows a lack of discretion in both confidentiality and courtesy
  • Describing current work plans or projects could reveal information that is confidential or propriety to your company
  • Strong opinions or rants on any topic can often be off-putting or in poor taste
  • Overly-personal photos can look unprofessional

What About After I Get The Job? Should I Start Posting Again?

What About After I Get The Job_ Should I Start Posting Again_

Once you’ve landed your new job, is it OK to unlock all those privacy settings and post anything you want again? That’s probably not the best strategy.

These days, you are likely to have several employers across the span of your career. And even if you are the exception and spend your entire working career at a single company, you will almost certainly work in different departments and for different supervisors. Each time you look to change companies or positions, it’s almost certain that your social media content will be scrutinized by whoever is reviewing applicants for their position. Keep in mind that up to 45% of older job seekers wish they’d been more judicious with their earlier social media use.

A final consideration is that many employers have code of conduct rules. Speaking ill of customers or colleagues is likely to be a violation of those rules. If you find yourself at your dream job, sabotaging yourself by being “Facebook fired” over behavior that your employer considers inappropriate or damaging to their company’s reputation is the last thing you want to do.

I hope you’ve enjoyed and found this information useful. If you have additional experiences or tips to share on the topic of ensuring that what you post on social media doesn’t hurt your job-seeking opportunities, post in the comments below and we can keep this discussion going!

— Sean