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'Digital dirt' may nix that job you were counting on getting

Sarah O'Brien
With 70 percent of companies checking online content posted by job applicants, it's worth making sure you don't have anything posted that would make an employer move on to another candidate.

If you're looking for a job, you might want to think twice about posting that suggestive photo of you double-fisting margaritas on a booze cruise.

More than half of employers (57 percent) that check job candidates' social media say they've seen content that has caused them to eliminate a person as a job contender, according to new research from CareerBuilder.

The top three turnoffs are provocative or inappropriate content (40 percent), posts about drinking or using drugs (36 percent), and discriminatory comments (31 percent).


"The message to job seekers is to use common sense," said Michael Erwin, a senior career advisor and spokesman for CareerBuilder. "If you are job searching or know you will be, make sure your social media presents you in a way that will make an employer want to hire you."

The company's online poll, conducted in the spring, surveyed more than 1,000 hiring managers and human resources professionals.


In 2006, when CareerBuilder first began tracking whether employers were making social media checks, just 12 percent of companies were using them as a screening tool. By 2010 that figure had grown to 25 percent and now stands at 70 percent.

And based on the survey, the scrutiny continues after you're hired: 48 percent of respondents say they monitor current employees' social media activity.

This is not to say you should avoid having an online presence altogether: 47 percent of hiring managers said the absence of one has actually made them back off interest in a job candidate. Just remember that if you make something publicly available on any site, a prospective employer might see it.


Also, your social media can be helpful: 43 percent of employers say they have seen something in posted content that made them hire someone, ranging from confirmation of the person's professional qualifications to evidence that the candidate is creative or well-rounded.

"Use social media to your advantage," Erwin said. "It can help you differentiate yourself from someone who isn't doing that."

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