An individual has been enjoying several years in her dream profession of teaching.  When performance review season emerges, she is excited as she walks down to the administrative offices, as she strongly believes that the feedback she has been receiving from her peers, as well as the completion of her master’s degree, will both result in a significant pay raise.  But when she enters for her meeting, she is shocked to hear that the school system has decided to dismiss her from her job.  They inform her that despite her success in teaching, a photo of her drinking wine with her family was found on her Facebook account, and that the school system could not condone such activity.

Meanwhile, an individual who works in consulting roles for large organizations has gone for more than a month without landing a new contract.  His credentials are strong, he has the experience, and he interviews well, but he continually hears that one firm after another has passed on him.  Eventually he reaches out to one of the interviewers to politely ask why he had been passed on, specifically when he had been all but assured that he would receive an offer.  The interviewer informed him that despite strong credentials, the firm was hesitant to offer him the job as they could not find any of his social media accounts and were therefore unable to judge his character outside of a work environment.  When he told the interviewer that he in fact did not have any social media accounts, she respectfully suggested that maybe he should make some.

Yes, both of those are true stories.

In today’s age, social media can be both the cause of your hiring and the cause of your dismissal.  Just look at a few statistics discussed in a 2017 article from

  • 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates.
  • 57% are less likely to interview a candidate they can’t find online.
  • 54% have decided not to hire a candidate based on their social media profiles.
  • 50% regularly check social media profiles of their employees.
  • 33% have fired or reprimanded an employee based off of their account content.

Given these statistics, it is critical to maintain a close eye on your account.  Here are some guidelines and suggestions for helping to ensure that your profile enhances, or at a minimum does not hurt, your career:

  • Many businesses today have a social media policy in place that may describe specific behaviors or content that they do not want to see online.  If your organization has a social media policy, make sure that you are familiar with it.  Many schools and daycares, for example, will reprimand or fire an employee for posting pictures containing alcohol (as seen above).
  • Google yourself.  There could be things floating around that you are not even aware of.  Possibly even an old Xanga or MySpace account from your teenage years that should never see the light of day.
  • Double-check your social media privacy settings.  You may be unintentionally posting content that you thought was private but instead was being shared with the entire world.
  • Have a candid talk with your friends who share heavily on social media.  Politely ask them to not share photos of you, or even tag you, as it becomes much more difficult to prevent such content from spreading.
  • Update your profile picture(s) with either a professional photograph, or at least with a photograph that shows maturity.
  • Post and/or share articles or content on your social media profile that is relevant to your career industry.  Not only will this make you appear more professional and therefore more attractive to employers, but it can also help bury older content.
  • Consider building a LinkedIn profile for your professional online image.  Even if an employer checks your Facebook, Twitter, or other “fun” profile to get a sense of who you are outside of the 9-5, your LinkedIn page will stand as a solid testament of your professional side.
  •  And finally, just use common sense.  Don’t use profane language, make off-color remarks, or speak ill of businesses or employers (especially your own).

In summary, think before you post.  If there is doubt, lean on the side of caution.  And if you know that your online profiles are full of old content that needs to be destroyed, consider using an online service, like Scrubber, which can help you find and delete it.



Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.