When searching for a job, social media can act as a double-edged sword. A sharp LinkedIn profile can allow prospective employers to assess your professional skills at a glance, while sites like Facebook and Twitter can give you a chance to highlight your presentation, communication and marketing skills. However, for every boon it may offer, your social media presence can present enough hazards to sink your job hunt before you even reach the interview stage.

In a survey conducted by employment service CareerBuilder and reported on in Forbes, it was revealed that 37% of employers use social media to screen potential job candidates, with a third of those claiming they found content which caused them not to hire the candidate. To ensure your next employer is face(booke)d with the best you have to offer, we follow these tips when next you log on.  

Keep your political views to yourself

Social media can be a powerful tool for political change. However, if you’re currently scouring the market for a new job, you might want to keep the Facebook filibustering to a minimum. Research compiled by LexisNexis has pointed to incidents of employees being lawfully demoted or dismissed for expressing extreme political views on social media, but even mild political leanings can sink a job application if your would-be employer votes for the rival party.    

Keep it PG

Bonnie Wynne is a Law, Finance, and Accounting Graduate for the Australian Tax Office. As a recent graduate from the College of Law, she has commenced an enviable legal career while navigating the perils of her social media-happy generation.

“For employees, social media can present new and unique pitfalls,” Wynne said.

“Before Facebook, what happened in Vegas stayed in Vegas. Now, job hunters can find that the time they did body shots in Cabo is no longer just between them and their friends.”

Wynne added that scandalous social media content can follow a job seeker for their entire career.

“Missing out on the job offer can sometimes be the best-case scenario,” she said.

“Everyone has seen the news articles naming and shaming students for their racist, sexist or otherwise offensive behaviour. That kind of coverage can follow job-seekers for a long time, and it will be the first thing future employers see when they Google your name.”

Don’t complain about former (or current) employers

As much as you may loathe your last workplace, Facebook or Twitter is not the place to complain about it. While you only need to look to the Applebee’s social media fiasco of last year to know that a work-related post can cost an employee their job, professional development site Career Realism warns that posting negatively about a current or past employer can send the wrong message to future employers as well.

“You may want to tweet to your friends you got away with being late for the third time this week,” observed Career Realism.

“But while job seeking, it’s best to avoid these types of tweets as they could look bad to a prospective employer who is looking for a way to judge your work ethic.”

Set your privacy settings just right

Wynne asserts that when it comes to privacy settings on social media, a healthy balance is the safest approach.

“Take advantage of Facebook’s different privacy settings,” she said.

“Locking down your entire profile is a shady look in today’s social-media-heavy environment. The obvious question is ‘what are they hiding?’ Keeping a few holiday snaps and non-threatening statuses about the weather public makes you look less like a robot or secret agent, and more like an actual person. Even better, use your public information to back up the information in your resume. It’s one thing to say you’re a team player – if your prospective employer can see a photo of you holding up the regional basketball trophy, they might actually believe it.”