Interviews don’t start with firm handshakes anymore. They start with Google and Facebook searches. Social media has been around for more than 10 years (Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, etc), and professionals still post inappropriate and irrelevant information that compromises their chance of getting an interview. A recent survey confirms this: a whopping 70 percent of U.S. business managers say they decided not to hire a job candidate based upon something found out about her online.

Some people feel that innocent pictures at parties are acceptable won’t offend potential employers. The challenge is not knowing what the hiring manager may think of the content shared. Similarly, those tweets posted during the heat of the last presidential debate could cost experienced managers and executives their next promotion. Here is how to proceed going forward:

  • No Alcohol – Even if you are over 21 years old, don’t post pictures of you with a drink in your hand. Recruiters don’t know how many drinks you’ve had or the affect the alcohol had on you. There is a “However” with this rule. Having a casual drink (e.g. – wine at picnic or dinner party) with a spouse or significant other should not affect your employment chance.
  • NEVER Post Anything Political – This fact is especially true in our current heated political environment. I have spoken with dozens of people who have unfollowed and unfriended people because of their political posts. The talent acquisition manager or human resources officer may be of a different political party, and their opinions may keep you from getting a job.
  • LinkedIn Profile – Your resume doesn’t have your picture, but your LinkedIn profile should. Update your LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot, summary of professional experiences and a list of relevant skills. Inspect your listing for typos and grammatical errors. You profile is not just for getting a job. It is a robust way to demonstrate your brand.

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  • Don’t Be Mean – Bullying in person or online is wrong. Use social media to compliment and lift up other people, non-profits and organizations. As my parents taught me, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Recruiters believe if you are mean on Facebook, you’ll be mean in the office. Use Twitter and Facebook to illustrate your skills and talents, and how you benefit businesses and brands.
  • Don’t Brag – In 2009, a 22-year old student bragged on Twitter that she had gotten a job offer from Cisco with a “fatty paycheck”, and she had to decide if she was going to take the job offer. Cisco rescinded the job offer. Don’t mention prospective or current employers in blogs, tweets or posts, unless it is your job to do so. Employees should read the company social media policies before engaging in online activity.
  • No Sexual Content – Twitter lists who you are following. This is a public listing of the people, businesses and brands in whom you are interested. Retweets and Likes are seen as an endorsement of certain content and media. If you insist on following controversial sites or people, turn on the settings to keep your content private.

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  • No Complaining – Businesses don’t want to hire people who complain. Complaining about a previous employer is an especially bad practice. Hiring managers will presume if you complain about past employment, you’ll complain about future employment.

Recent survey results show 92% of employers use social media to find high quality candidates. Social media are “social” in nature, but it is also very public. Job seekers should be cautious of the content they are releasing. Remember: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But what happens on social media lives FOREVER.

Scientifically Speaking, of course…