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6 Things Smart Job Seekers Never Do

Any one of these things could put you in the reject pile.
12/04/2017 11:08am ET | Updated December 4, 2017
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Seventy percent of employers screened job candidates on social media this year, according to the latest Career Builder study. And more than half of those companies said they would pass on an otherwise strong candidate if they saw something they didn’t like on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Smart job hunters know this, of course. And they would never...

1. Post photos of themselves drinking or using drugs

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink if you’re of legal age, but employers are rejecting candidates who have too much content pertaining to drinking or drug use on their online profiles, said Patrick Ambron, CEO and co-founder of BrandYourself, an online reputation management site.

“Even if the substances being showcased are legal, employers perceive this kind of content as a red flag, as it speaks to your judgement and your ability to take on responsibilities ― especially if you are going to be in a client-facing role,” Ambron told HuffPost.

Remember Ashley Payne, the Georgia high school teacher who lost her job after posting pictures to her Facebook page of her drinking alcohol on a European vacation? A court denied her bid to get back her job and declined to award her damages.

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2. Post inappropriate content ― or post nothing at all

Keep those middle fingers to yourself. The general rule of thumb is: Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma or children to see. Err on the side of caution. But here’s the catch: You should post something. The same Career Builder study found that 60 percent of recruiters would not invite an applicant to an interview if that applicant had no social media presence.

In other words, the absence of any digital profile is now officially a red flag.

And just to confuse you further, employers don’t really want someone who posts all of their thoughts on social media. Part of being a professional is learning to fine-tune your communication and knowing what shouldn’t be publicized. Sharing too much information may cause prospective employers to worry that you will share confidential information or speak inappropriately to clients.

3. Make discriminatory comments related to race, gender or religion

Some people view social media the same way they view a private conversation with friends, where everyone involved knows them and understands their views, verbiage and sense of humor. That’s a bad idea.

Today’s volatile ― and viral ― world proves that your mother was right when she said to keep your mouth shut if you have nothing nice to say. One-third of employers have turned away candidates who have posted something online that appears sexist, bigoted or homophobic.

Anyone remember how Justine Sacco’s career blew up with a tweet? The high-powered PR executive lost her job for racist and insensitive tweets she said were meant to be satirical. The lesson here: Social media can and will be seen by anyone, not just your closest friends, so act accordingly.

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4. Disparage their previous company

Nobody likes to be gossiped about. Not in high school or college, and certainly not in the professional world, Ambron said. Almost one-third of employers say they have rejected candidates for openly bad-mouthing their past employers. Talking behind anyone’s back is seen as a serious lack of good character, Ambron said, so think twice about putting down your old boss, even if your comments are made with the intention of being funny.

5. Lie about their qualifications

When the University of Notre Dame hired George O’Leary as its head football coach in 2001, the university community celebrated. But that joy quickly faded, as the school learned 24 hours later that O’Leary had lied about lettering in football at New Hampshire and didn’t actually have a master’s degree from New York University. He had been lying for 20 years, undetected. “No one checks backgrounds,” said a Division I-A athletic director at the time, according to the Chicago Tribune. “You take people at their word.”

Taking people at their word really doesn’t happen anymore. In 2017, with the internet at our fingertips, it’s doubtful someone will get away with lying for as long as O’Leary did. “All the more reason to remember,” Ambron said, “do not provide false information online about your experience.”

“Besides,” he added, “you won’t make it far after your employer realizes you can’t deliver what you’ve promised.”

6. Use unprofessional screen names, usernames or email handles

Almost everyone used a juvenile (or maybe even inappropriate) screen name in the past, maybe in the earliest days of AOL Instant Messenger. As you enter the workforce, make sure you claim a professional handle across all of your social platforms and email addresses, especially for business communication. Keeping your middle school screen name implies immaturity and lack of judgement, Ambron said.

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