Job Searching and Privacy in the Age of Social Media

A Personal Posting Policy

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Recently reports have surfaced of employers asking for the passwords to the social media accounts of job applicants to "learn more about them" as part of the interview process. Many others scour the internet to find everything they can about potential employees. Let me make my point of view clear early on: Employers have no business looking at anything I do online in order to assess my candidacy for employment or my work as an employee. I know it can be helpful to weed out the really bad apples, but it is in no way necessary to do so.

I have nothing to hide. I'm not ashamed of pictures or status updates or tweets in my name. I'm considerate of what I share, not because of a job or a family member, but because I care about how I am perceived. I don't post drunken photos of me, because I don't want to, but I would never censor myself because I was worried an employer would see it. I have three rules that I live by , and so should you, when it comes to social media and your job or potential employer.

Know your company's social-media policy.
You're at risk of being fired for what you do in social media if your company has strict rules. If you want to do your own thing, just don't associate yourself with them online.

If you think you might be posting something controversial or inappropriate, don't associate yourself with your company online.
That means don't say where you work in your Twitter bio, don't list your workplace in your Facebook profile, and don't link your personal Twitter to your professional LinkedIn page if you don't want that network to see what you're tweeting.

Make your profiles private enough that they don't show up in searches and are only accessible to friends and connections.
Check those privacy settings and test them with someone you know and trust. Make sure what you don't want to be seen can't be seen.

Don't be afraid to decline an employer's request for social-media profile links or passwords. If it's going to make you lose a job, you might want to think about the type of company you want to work for. You have a right to privacy. If you need the job you may give in. Just make sure you clean it up before you hand over the links.

I keep my Facebook page private, but my Twitter handles (yes, I have two) are public. I don't say where I work, but I say what I do. I publicly share my Foursquare and Flickr as well. That's my preference. What's yours?

About the Author
David Trahan is a Brand Strategy & Digital Experience Consultant for Interbrand. He graduated from Pace University in 2009.

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