These 6 Social Media Mistakes Could Cost You the Job


Original illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

We’re hardly naïve enough to think what we post on social media goes unnoticed—77% of employers admit to googling applicants pre-interview—but at what point do you actively blur the lines between work and social life and welcome your colleagues into your digital world?

Etiquette expert Sharon Schweitzer says the rules are constantly evolving, but there are a few dos and don’ts that every employee should know. “Every organization has their own culture. Depending on that culture, both written and unwritten, there are certain expectations about personal posts and online presence in place,” she says. “While social media provides a glimpse into your private life, it has caused tremendous damage for the unwary, and may even let you fall in an oversharing trap.”

Unsure whether to friend your boss on Facebook or talk about your colleague’s latest post in the office? Take note of the six most common mistakes that will make you look unprofessional and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Making a Personal, Not Professional, Decision

You might consider your boss a good friend, but that doesn’t mean they should be your friend on social media, says Schweitzer. “Remember that it’s business, not personal. Do you want your boss to see photos of your upcoming bachelorette party, girls’ weekend, or anniversary getaway?” Before sending your employer a friend request, she recommends asking yourself these three questions:

Will this request hinder my career? “This is the number one question everyone needs to keep in mind. Is it going to hurt your reputation and possibly the chances of promotion?” she says. If you tend to overshare on social media or your friends tag you in less-than-favorable memes, pause to consider how that might be perceived.

What is the organization’s policy on my request or response? “A good starting point is to double-check the company’s social media policy,” she says. Some companies insist that if your title or workplace is named, your profile could be scrutinized by management. 

Are other employees friends with them? Schweitzer recommends browsing their profile to get a better idea of how your boss uses social media. “Are they friends with other employees? This will help gauge what type of interaction work colleagues have with them, and the interaction they may have with you.”

Mistake 2: Not Weighing the Pros and Cons

Like any decision that could impact your career, it’s important to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks. Before making a knee-jerk decision, Schweitzer says to think about these top seven pros and cons:

Pro: Leveraging social media to maintain your professional relationships.

Con: Cultural, political, sexual, or spiritual posts may cause awkward moments.

Pro: Cheerleading for the brand by posting organization updates and promotions.

Con: Family/friends may tag an embarrassing photo showing your lack of judgment.

Pro: Discovering more about the boss, including family, friends, and hobbies.

Con: The boss may scan your pattern of unprofessional, party-style posts.

Pro: Your boss discovers your other talents, stirring curiosity on a deeper level.