Social Media and Job Hunting

Q: I am junior in high school. I have nowhere to turn but your column. I applied for a job at a local store in my hometown. I was shocked when they told me that I didn’t get the job because of photos I had posted on Instagram. I feel like these photos are my business and shouldn’t affect how accurate I am as a cashier. What do you think?

A: Social media’s impact on job hunting is a growing reality. Employers are trying to understand you as a candidate. Every hire is a risk. Employers want to minimize risk and hire quality employees. In addition to interviews and reference checks, employers are also looking at a candidate’s social media activity. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts can sometimes hurt a candidate.

In 2013, On Device Research, a global research firm, studied how social media can hurt and help a job seeker’s ability to land a job. The study revealed that 1 in 10 young job seekers (16 to 34 years old) have been rejected by an employer because of the content of their social media accounts. Many of the reasons a job seeker is not selected is because their social media activity includes one or more of the follow: posting inappropriate photos, posting pictures of alcohol or drug use or posting discriminatory or offensive comments. Employers defend their actions saying that social media profiles can give them a better sense of who they are hiring and a candidate’s ability to use good judgment. Conversely, social media activity can also help a job seeker. If a candidate’s online profile portrays the candidate in a professional way or if the content conveys the candidate’s qualifications, this can improve a candidate’s odds in securing a job offer.

Those with social media accounts should assume that everything shared on these sites are public. Deleted posts are harder to uncover but they can be found.

I am surprised that the store in your hometown gave you a reason for not hiring you. Many employers would have taken the easier way out and simply stated that they hired a more qualified candidate. Good for them for being candid. Now you know that your social media accounts are being reviewed by potential employers.

Finally, you may want to monitor your social media posts and pictures. Consider deleting any inappropriate content. Envision an employer looking at your accounts. What message do your pictures and posts convey?

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.