Social media has changed the dynamics of how people interact. These days popular networks play an important role in the personal and professional lives of many. While there are many benefits these networks have added to society, they do come with a number of drawbacks. One of the largest challenges people face today is when personal and professional profiles blur and how these, ultimately, can impact a job.

How social media accounts affect a current or potential job could be negative or positive. Employers routinely use these networks in a number of ways, all the way from hiring to firing.

Job InterviewCredit: bpsusf /Creative Commons-Attribution

How Recruiters Use Social Media

It is common for company recruiters to use social media in the hiring process. Employers tend to search out applicants on networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+, to either recruit or evaluate potential employees. Often they also check to try and gauge a potential employee's personality, as people are more apt to be more relaxed posting on online networks than they would be in resumes or cover letters they submit.

For instance, employers might search out potential employees on LinkedIn, but they also might check the individual's Facebook profile to see his or her personal side. What the employer sees on both networks from the same person may vary dramatically. 

Online Presence Matters

In its earliest of forms, social media was, for the most part, anonymous. People would create user names (AKA "chat names") and go online to interact on bulletin boards and in chatrooms. Today's models are far different. Networks either encourage or require users to use their real names, and it is rare not to find a person posting on at least one of the major networks. The shift in how people share their identities online has led to problems in the workplace. In the age of mobile, many posts are published on impulse. People truly have to think about what they post before they do it.

Instagram and other Social Media AppsCredit: Image Credit: Jason A. Howie at Flickr/Creative Commons-Attribution

In 2011 Mashable reported Reppler, a social media monitoring service, conducted a survey of over 300 hiring professionals. The results showed 91 percent of employees (and recruiters) visited profiles of potential job candidates, and 69 percent of them turned down a person based on what was seen these profiles. Forty-seven percent of employers screened social media accounts after receiving an application rather than at later stages of the hiring process; 68 percent hired a person based on their social media presence. Fast forward and this trend continues.

For better or worse, either way, a person's appearance on social media matters.

Think Twice Before You Post

Posting images employers would deem inappropriate or using language unprofessional have led to a number of firings, careful thought should always be given prior to posting a photo or status update on any network. Privacy settings can be utilized and are helpful to some extent, but these tools do not guarantee content won't be seen, or shared.

Regardless of how social media is used, a digital footprint is always left behind. Not to mention glitches with privacy settings have happened, so even with the best of intentions to present a professional appearance, hidden posts could always surface. For instance, what happens when Facebook inadvertently resets user privacy settings when it does updates?

To make a professional stamp on the Web, here are a few general rules of thumb:

  • Don't share anything you wouldn't want your boss or a future potential employer to see
  • Never vent about bosses, customers or overall job conditions
  • Keep unprofessional photos (i.e. drinking/partying) off your pages
  • Monitor what friends post, as some of these might not present you in the best light
  • Check privacy settings often to ensure they are set as you intended

By maintaining a positive and professional online presence, you can reduce the chances of an undesired situation or tarnished reputation occurring. While social media can really enhance a person's online appearance, it can also have a disastrous effect if not careful.

Computer keyboardCredit: (Public Domain)