personal brand

Are you aware that social media pitfalls can make you unemployable or get you fired? There was a time, not so long ago, when hiring decisions were made on the basis of a resume, an interview and a few references. Now, employers are using social media to get to the nitty-gritty about your thoughts, beliefs, values, political views and anything else you willingly put out there. Do you think you are still employable?


social media pitfalls

Social media is your resume. What’s on it?

Social media and employment are now very much connected. According to, 60% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates and 49% of employers found information that caused them not to hire a candidate. Your odds of getting an interview are reduced when an employer finds any of the following social media pitfalls on your social media pages:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information
  • Information about drinking or using drugs
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc.
  • Bad-mouthing of previous company or fellow employee
  • Poor communication skills

HubShout’s Social Media Conduct survey found that many American workers fall into these social media pitfalls that are a turn-off to employers—but, 34% are not worried about employers seeing the posts because they believe their social media accounts are private.

About those privacy settings

Plenty of evidence disputes the notion of online privacy. Even if you’re confident that no employer will find you on social media, consider this: The survey found that 41% of employers say they are less likely to interview a candidate if they are unable to find information about that person online.

Your best bet is to create social media profiles that reinforce the qualities of the awesome person that you describe in your resume and interviews. It’s even OK to brag a little! According to the survey, this is what employers want to see on your social media profiles:

social media pitfalls

Does it pass the grandma test?

Scott Kleinberg, Chicago Tribune
Scott Kleinberg, nationally syndicated columnist

Scott Kleinberg, nationally syndicated columnist and the former social media editor at the Chicago Tribune, came up with a good rule of thumb for posting on social media. He calls it the “Social Media Grandma Theory”—If you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying something to your grandmother, you should think twice about saying it on social media.

And do keep in mind that this applies to sharing other people’s posts. You share it, you own it.

 Fired because of social media pitfalls

When all goes well, you get hired! Your employer may advise you of the company’s social media policy, but don’t count on it. If there is no social media policy, refer back to the “Grandma Theory,” especially as you begin to friend and connect with colleagues.

The social media/employment connection does not end when you’re hired. Joking around at the office is not the same thing as posting something that could be construed as offensive. That post, unlike the spoken word, lives on forever. Employers have fired people because of some post in the realm of these social media pitfalls . They’re allowed!

 The Social Media Conduct survey found that 41 percent of Americans believe that getting fired because of a social media post is an infringement of First Amendment rights. It’s media pitfalls

The First Amendment “does not protect speakers against private individuals or organizations, such as private employers…the First Amendment restrains only the government.”

Make the best of it

Your social media friends and connections could someday be in a position to hire you, help you get a job, or give you a reference. For that reason alone, it’s best to keep things civil. Now that we know that employers are using social media to make hiring and firing decisions, it’s even more important to resist the urge to be provocative and irreverent on social media. Read more about social media and employment in HubShout’s Social Media Conduct eBook.


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  • Ellen Gipko

    Ellen Gipko is a digital marketing specialist for HubShout, and a writer specializing in the topics of social media and digital marketing. She has contributed content to Social Media Today, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal and other industry websites.

By Ellen Gipko

Ellen Gipko is a digital marketing specialist for HubShout, and a writer specializing in the topics of social media and digital marketing. She has contributed content to Social Media Today, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Journal and other industry websites.

7 thoughts on “5 Social media pitfalls that can get you fired”
  1. You are right on the money! Social media is so ingrained in our lives that we hardly see it at a potential risk, however, the same way we behave ourselves in other situations is reflected now in the super public space. Nothing is private in the interconnected world!

  2. I don’t think that people are aware of this as much as they should be. Social media is so pervasive in our society now, that I feel that it should almost be common sense that someone who is hiring will look at social media pages before an interview.

    1. Totally agree with you, Amanda. It seems like people just post whatever they want, without thinking of how someone else might view it. When it comes to current or potential employers looking at your social media profiles, you can never be too safe!

  3. I know a lot of people who have both public and private Twitter accounts for their professional and personal lives, respectively. As much as I understand it, I feel like that’d be a red flag to most employers who research them on social media. If I were in position to hire, I’d think, “What is this person trying to hide?”

    Being professional online doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your personality or stop sharing things about your personal life, you just have to be more careful as to what you post. Being eccentric and being irreverent are very different 🙂

    Great article, Ellen!

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