Could your Facebook page keep you from getting a job?

By Bernadette Trail

HR Business Partner, Methodist Charlton Medical Center

How social are you? How often do you post content to your Facebook page? Social media is a way of life these days, but many people don’t stop to think who is viewing their very public posts. As a potential employee, have you ever considered that a future employer may be looking at your social content? Many hopeful candidates are learning the hard way that their Facebook pages may be keeping them from getting a job.

How is that possible? Isn’t it illegal for employers to base hiring decisions on what someone posts on his or her Facebook page? According to the Federal Trade Commission, a company who checks an applicant’s social content history is in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. What’s more, the employer doesn’t have to disclose it looked at an applicant’s Facebook page because the information is considered public. In fact, many employers are using social intelligence companies to scour the Internet for anything applicants may have said or done for the past seven years!

As an HR professional, I am very hesitant to base any hiring decision solely on an applicant’s social media history because the information must be considered suspect in terms of accuracy and legitimacy. But I always tell my daughter that things she is posting now at 14 years of age may affect her college application process, her ability to land her first job, and more.

Attorneys from the legal firm of Jackson-Lewis recently shared these insights:

  • 24 million American Facebook users leave their profiles mostly public.
  • 73 percent of social media profiles can be found through a public search engine.
  • 77 percent of social network users do not restrict access to their photos.
  • Of the employers who use social networks to screen job candidates, 35 percent have at least once decided not to offer a job to an applicant based on the content posted, and more than 50 percent of those attribute their decision to provocative photos, references to drinking and drug use, or bad-mouthing of previous employers and colleagues.

Facebook content that could be used to screen out an applicant includes:

  • Racist remarks
  • References to drugs
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Displays of weapons or bombs
  • Bullying

In general, photos and videos are what get most people into trouble. Employers can’t be cavalier about using the information they find on applicants’ social media histories. The information may be considered public, but the employer cannot use the information to discriminate against an applicant based on race, gender, age, family status, disabilities, religion, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics.

My advice for people using social media is:

  • Facebook – keep it private.
  • LinkedIn – keep it professional.
  • In general – use good judgment about what you post at all times.
  • Never vent online about an employer, co-worker, or boss.
  • Never refer to patients or vendors with details of individual cases.

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Posted Career Advancement, Social