Social media can be dangerous to your career if not used wisely. We know it, employers know it – hell, even Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges it. Every day, we hear stories of people fired, people hired and people’s lives ruined because of a stupid tweet or thoughtless comment.

The problem is, the things a person shares online quickly become their personal brand – and this includes the bad as well as the good.

It’s a widely cited fact that most prospective employers Google candidates before taking their job applications to interview. But what are the red flags that scupper a hire? What are the cardinal sins of online etiquette? In short, what status updates will get you fired before you’re even hired?

A bad reference

On the web, everyone can hear you scream. In fact they can hear you scream forever and ever, down the digital ages. With tools like the Way-Back Machine allowing you to look at previous iterations of any internet site, plus the ubiquity of the phone screenshot function, literally everything online is recorded for posterity somewhere.

Thus, while Facebook might be a good way to keep all your drunken photos in one place, it also acts as a fantastic referencing system. According to Career Builder, the top no-nos online are inappropriate photos, drug references and discriminatory language. And you will be judged on your past online activity – because why should a recruiter go the trouble of contacting previous employers when they can just Google a candidate’s name?

Tempted to sign off for good? Unfortunately, the reference analogy goes further: if employers Google a candidate and find nothing – no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn – they are given just as much cause for doubt as otherwise. These days, it looks more suspicious not to be on social media than to misuse it.


Are you an over-sharer? ‘TMI’ – or ‘too much information’ – isn’t just a concern for teenage girls. Businesses are looking for employees who can separate the personal from the professional, both in the workplace and online. If your Twitter feed catalogues the entire daily grind of your previous role – or, worse, shares information that should be limited to a professional context – then you could be in hot water where both prospective and current employers are concerned.

Another issue to watch out for is volume of online interactions. If someone posts three, four, five updates a day, it’s easy for a hiring manager to question whether they should be working instead. To ensure you turn off no future employers, keep your social media to a maximum of a couple of posts a day and confine yourself to personal topics only.

Not sure what we mean? Read these horrendous, fireable updates and weep.

Defamatory remarks

Critical remarks or personal attacks are par for the course on social media platforms. But did you know that such insults can count as defamation? Whether a post is public or confined to a small group, a Facebook or Twitter update is deemed ‘published’ by a court of law. And published slander is defamatory; you could easily be sued.

Although it’s unlikely that anyone you provoke online will initiate genuine legal action against you, it’s not a good idea to taunt the beast. And do we really need to go through the reasons why patent racism, sexism or otherwise discriminatory remarks won’t boost your job prospects?

Companies that see you bandying insults online will be all too wary of turning that ire against themselves. Don’t give them a reason to fear you. Keep things clean.

Bad spelling

“U beta wotch ur speling,” said nobody ever. But spelling is a big deal, and not just on your resume. A recent YouGov survey of business decision makers revealed that a whopping 56% would reconsider a hire who employed bad grammar and/or spelling on social media.

The simple truth is that bad spelling makes you look at best lazy, at worst stupid. If you can’t be bothered to spell check your tweets, don’t put them out there. And that’s the harsh truth: on the web, you’re judged solely by what you choose to put out there. If that output is lacking, then no number of firm handshakes can help you.