Attention future employers: Most young adults would prefer you not judge them based on their social media posts.
Please ignore their keg-stand-selfies when making hiring decisions. Oh, and disregard those sexually explicit tweets and status updates.
Instead they ask that you focus on their resumes, tidy dress clothes, manners and communication skills.
Regardless of how many times people have been warned about the potential pitfalls with posting questionable content on social media, new stories emerge about someone being fired (or not hired) because of a social media post.
For example, a recent tweet by @Cellla_ who posted “Ew, I start this f*** a** job tomorrow” ended her job before it even started.
Her employer, @RobertWaple, tweeted back “And...no you don’t start that FA job today! I just fired you! Good luck with your no money, no job life!” Waple rarely used Twitter until he heard about @Cellla_’s tweet. Both tweets have been deleted, and @Cellla_ tweeted an apology.
A recent study in Computers in Human Behavior by Michelle Drouin and her colleagues at Indiana University-Purdue University suggests many young adults don’t support the use of social media when screening job applicants.
They found that students who reported low self-control and high levels of “openness” didn’t like the idea of employers reviewing social media posts. These same students don’t think employers should make decisions based on a couple offensive posts.
Additionally, most young adults in the study expressed liberal views about what is acceptable to post online.
Most employers probably don’t care what young adults think about the use of social media to assess job candidates, and this study only confirms the intentions of employers who are screening candidates for position using social media.
According to a study reported by CareerBuilder.com in 2014, employers passed on candidates who posted provocative pictures, messages about drinking or using drugs, criticism of a previous employer, poor communication skills and more. But some of these same employers said they found other content that made them want to hire candidates. Candidates with creative social media posts, background information that supported professional qualifications and professional images impressed employers.
Of course, candidates who demonstrated great communication skills on their social media profiles were viewed favorably.
This is clear evidence that parents, educators and others need to continue to make young adults aware of long-term effects of posting inappropriate content to social media.
And we need to encourage kids that some creative social media content could be beneficial in the job search. Being positive and upbeat on social media is easy to do, and very attractive to potential employers.
One day, young adults like @Cellla_ will be managers, responsible for employment decisions. One day, @Cellla_ will be using social media to scrutinize the next generation just as we scrutinize her generation today.
~ A version of the column appeared in the Sunday, February 22, 2015 "Connected" section of the The Vindicator newspaper.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor of communication studies the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on social media and society.