HOW TO: Avoid the Top 10 Faux Pas Seen in Twitter Profiles

Future employers search for you on Twitter and other social media sites. Why? They’re looking for potential problems, that’s why. And when they find them, they don’t hire you. 

The less formal the social media site, the more likely people are to let their hair down. Thus, many recruiters want to know how job seekers show up on Facebook and Twitter.

“Watch out what you say on Facebook” is good advice. I hear it somewhere almost every day. Interestingly, Twitter hasn’t received as much attention, even though it’s much more public than Facebook.

I looked at some Twitter profiles for people in a very mainstream profession yesterday. Let’s just say that I was shocked, shocked, OK, maybe not shocked, but surprised, yes, surprised, and concerned, at what I saw people sharing.

What is the half-life of our Internet posts? I don’t know, but I still regret unwittingly sharing information about my politics and favorite movies with the world.

Who knew that our political contributions are posted on the Internet? Not me. Then.

Who knew that my local paper would print my “Favorite Movies of 2007” list, with my name, in both the paper and on the Internet? Not me. Really. I would not have copped to loving Blades of Glory if I had known.

Sheesh, I had to start blogging to try to bury this information beyond Google’s long reach!

If you are job hunting, or expect to be job hunting, in the next ten years or so, please don’t over-share on any social media site, including Twitter.

Just for fun, I have imagined some Twitter profile content that would, in some way, be too much information to share with a future employer. Any resemblance these imaginary examples bear to any of the six-million plus profiles actually on Twitter is, of course, just an uncanny coincidence.

Please, do not include this type of information in your Twitter profile. Your next employer will find out all about you soon enough – preferably after they hire you.

So here they are, 10 types of information NOT to discuss in your Twitter profile…

Appearance: hot, long blond hair, sexy, obese, etc.

Faith & Spirituality: atheist, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Child of God, Christian, Druid, God fearing, God loving, Mormon, Muslim, Wiccan, Zen, etc.

Ego: expert, I’m a pretty big deal, leading authority, Mensa, renowned, snob, etc.

Ethnicity & National Origin: Black, Caucasian, Chinese, etc.

Family Information: divorced, domestic violence survivor, single parent, etc.

Motivation: burned out, lazy, still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow  up, couch potato, retired, would rather be a photographer, etc.

Negative Comments about Employers: fired illegally by {company name}, impossible working conditions at {company name}, it takes a lot of alcohol to work at {company name}, life is great since I left {company name}, etc.

Personality: addict, angry, drama queen, mama’s boy, Nazi, obsessed, opinionated, party animal, procrastinator, rabid, reckless, sarcastic, stubborn, 20 cats, whiner, whore, etc.

Physical & Mental Health & Abilities: ADD, bipolar, cancer survivor, compulsive overeater, deaf, diabetic, hypochondriac, multiple surgeries, smoker, phobic, etc.

Politics: conservative, Democrat, had enough of the government, Libertarian, pro-Israel, progressive, pro-Life, Republican, socialist, Tea Party member, etc.

Profanity: #^*@, (*#&, $*%&@, etc. Especially #^*@.

One more thing, I learned that there are a lot of self-described Grammar Nazis out there, so watch out! Spell check to avoid errors such as: regert mistakes that I have made, qaulity control supervisor, etc.

July 2013 Note: Almost three years after this post was written, I went back and looked at Twitter profiles for this same group of professionals. Nurses. Not nearly as many faux pas. So, while the current link in the first paragraph shows that social media still derails careers, it appears that many people are taking their online images more seriously as well. That’s great news!

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Get hired. Email me at donnasvei@gmail.com or call me at (208) 721-0131.

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Comments 36

  1. I have the solution. Share as much as you want but don’t use your real name on twitter, or protect your tweets!

    It’s hard to build relationships that way but it would give people the space to be themselves. #Ironic

  2. I agree that being obscene, illiterate, or boasting of your faults is not good PR. But I don’t agree that you need to censor yourself to such an extreme. If someone would decide not to hire me because my race or religion, etc., that’s a person I wouldn’t want to work for anyway.

    Regarding the person who’s tweets let on to what a jerk they are, or that they’re out partying it up all the time when they should be at work, I would say “good for you” to the employer who finds that out before-hand!

    Natalie, You might just be the person who disabuses someone of a prejuidice and helps them grow as a person — but only if they get to know you. Donna

  3. Interesting comments on this topic! I’ve been hearing a lot about developing a “professional brand,” and wondering what kinds of things are appropriate to say to distinguish oneself. At first, reading your list I thought it seemed too strict, too. But really, I want a professional brand that is distinct from my personal life- or at least, that’s what professional means to me. I’m a virologist, I follow science policy and education, and I am really interested in public health and antiviral development. Not a lot of people are, so that’s pretty authentic, right? How I spend my freetime doesn’t really come in to it, and needn’t, because I am a pretty engaging professional. Right?

    Sandlin, Right…and your interests are fascinating. Donna

  4. Hi Ramesh,

    Two Twitter accounts is a good idea — if you can handle it. I have trouble keeping one straight!

    And…employers really are checking social media presence before they make hiring decisions. Regardless of where one falls on the good idea/bad idea continuum, it’s a reality that we benefit from acknowledging.

    Thank you,

    Donna

  5. Why not just keep it simple and plan ahead with two different twitter accounts?
    You keep your work life seperate (at least I hope). Also, where can I get a job as an employer sitting around searching the web for your twitter account? Gimme a break. I’m sure a lot of employers are really doing this…

  6. I recently wrote a blog post/white paper entitled “Social Screening: Candidates – and Employers – Beware.” After sharing it with Nick Fishman of EmployeeIQScreen, I was directed to the ERE.net post on SocialIntelligence, which then led to all this post. I have enjoyed reading the extended digital conversation.

    For me the key point in this discussion is that candidates should make a conscious choice to reveal certain personal information that can reflect on their professional identity. Many of the commenters have done that, which is great, but far too many people disclose and post without any regard to the potential consequences of their sharing. Donna’s post is a good reminder that it is incumbent upon all of us to manage our digital identities thoughtfully.

    My expanded thoughts on social screening can be accessed here:

    Blog post – http://www.sminorgs.net/2010/10/social-screening-candidates-and-employers-beware.html

    White paper – http://www.slideshare.net/SMinOrgs/social-screening-candidates-and-employers-beware

    I plan to write a follow-up post and will include a link to this piece in it. It’s a great way to extend my ideas and the discussion.

    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community

  7. Here’s a fun share in the “I Just Want to Be Me” department: Hunter S. Thompson’s cover letter in a job app to the Vancouver Sun circa 1958 (http://j.mp/9V6LGr).

    Thanks to the Monster Blog and @JobHuntOrg for leading me to this!

    BTW, he didn’t get the job. He was destined for greatness elsewhere.

  8. Hi everyone,

    I’m loving the conversation and the varying perspectives on how much “me” if enough and how much is too much when you’re looking for a job or when possible employers are looking at you on-line.

    Keep your comments coming!

    Thank you,

    Donna

  9. The whole point of a twitter bio is to catch people’s attention and to make yourself seem interesting to the sort of people you hope to interact with.

    It isn’t necessary to give what amounts to a character reference and CV combined.

    Minimal information about what you do is fine, but who you are is more important that what you do, and that can be expressed as an impression rather than with lists of facts.

    I’ve found that a little wit in a twitter bio goes a long way, and have followed people in the past mainly on the basis of their bios making me smile.

    I’ve listed a few of the better ones in my blog at:
    http://bartie-blog.blogspot.com/2010/08/twitter-better-bio-blurb.html

    Take a look, and maybe leave a comment. (You could actually do worse than follow a few of those people too.)

  10. Actually the situation is serious to the point that it is no longer even appropriate to joke about. When I was an undergrad stident I was among the best in my graduating class, so I had a chance to get an interview with many of the on-campus recruiters. They were impressed with my high grades, but they would not give me a gob anyway. When I finally asked one of the recruiters: “So what kind of people are you looking for?” She replyed: “We are looking for exceptional, extremely talented people all over Canada. We are interviewing many promising candidates in all the major universities.” Then I asked her: “And how many positions are you trying to fill?” She said that she had one. Then I asked her if it was one with my major, one at my university or what exactly was one. She told me that there was only one position in Canada overall that she was looking to fill. And she was interviewing and waisting time of hundreds of students all over Canada! And this was a major bank! Really, then maybe the problem was that recruiters simply do not need anybody these days, no matter what color, religious, political or cultural background they are.

    I also was curious about waht exactly that means to be an exceplional, and extremely talented individual that employers are looking for to do a pretty ordinary job at the back. And with time I found out that they really are looking for SWM (Single White Males), preferably born in Canada, with lots of connections and money. Everyone else has either very little chance to get hired or would have to work all their life for a very minimum wage. I am sorry for been so opinionated. I do know that potential employers will not like it, but then again, they would probably not like me anyway.

  11. Gee! I do agree with most of the things written here. But is there really something so terribly wrong with liking “Blades of Glory” or having long blond hair or are employers just getting too difficult these days? I am really scared now! So if my potential employers do find out that I like “Blades of Glory” or that I do have long blond hair after all is that going to spell the end to my career? Maybe everyone’s life would be easier if I just retire then?

  12. Donna:
    You’ve got some great comments here! Super job stirring the pot. Who knew it would be taken other than it was intended.

    Your idea and intent was to suggest that discretion and thought be used in truly creating the right persona!

    Check!

  13. Hi Donna,

    I’ve been reading the comments posted here over the past few days with a mixture of disbelief, amusement and profound sadness. Your professional advice in this blog is timely, well-written, honest and on-point, and I have shared it with my colleagues. Yet, there seems to be in the mind-set of some that it’s okay to “do you” no matter what when seeking employment. And, certainly, that’s okay if you are a) independently wealthy, b) dependently wealthy via supporting parents/significant others, c) “hooked up” with an automatic “in” with the company of your choice, and/or, d) 12.

    However, in the real world, there are protocols that must be followed in order to be taken seriously by a prospective employer. For those who are for real about moving forward professionally, Twitter is a goldmine for accessing profitable career contacts and obtaining proven job-search advice from experienced professionals. It affords the incredible opportunity to position you to become a serious contender for a job in the faces of those who make recommendations and/or directly hire. But, don’t get it twisted: how are represent yourself DOES matter. And, while your hair color, dress size, fave music, personal tragedies, political opinions, and “keeping-it-real” egocentricity is absolutely your prerogative to share on Twitter, and may increase your number of followers, it won’t get you an interview in the real, grown-up world where none of that matters.

    Hiring managers do NOT know your work ethics before meeting you and assessing you as a suitable match for their company. The idea here is to project a professional image and an engaging personality so they will WANT to meet you. Simply put, hiring managers use Twitter and other viral social media to screen OUT candidates. And, although you may feel it is invasive and unfair… Oh well. It works. And the reason it works is because the competition for the job YOU want is fierce!

    It is extremely important to differentiate yourself from your competition on Twitter or anywhere else. However, smart, savvy job-seekers do so with intelligent, creatively written profiles that, if crafted with some thought other than being self-aggrandizing, will be anything but dull and vanilla. So, my suggestion is that if you are unclear re: the difference between projecting your “authentic” self vs. in-your-face-TMI, then perhaps it would be wise to seek out, listen and take heed to the advice of those who do. Their goal is the same as yours: you getting a job.

    Good luck from a professional in the Creative industry.

  14. Donna, I must agree with many of the others that this list is far too general, and unnecessarily strict. I have to disagree with some of these, for example tastes in music.

    I agree wholeheartedly on the extreme stuff, like profanity and extremist positions on politics/religion etc. Even too much sex should be avoided, in my opinion. You’ve even got a point with the examples for ego, motivation, and general negativity about past employers…

    But for someone to say they have “long blond hair”? Come on now. Now, we can’t simply describe ourselves? Most employers aren’t going to not give an interview simply because someone is obese… and if they would, I’d really like to see stats backing that assertion up.

    I definitely understand the main idea behind this post, and I’m 100% supporting you, Donna, I only would caution you and the others reading to take this with a grain of salt and use discretion.

    Just because you avoid making these faux pas doesn’t mean your Twitter profile (or any other social networking profile) has to be “vanilla,” as Michael so eloquently put it above.

    Good post, in my opinion! Keep em coming!

  15. We all have to find our own way with Twitter and the brand we are creating. The post is a good guideline to use when you first start. From there develop and showcase your skills through your tweets. No matter how much we all would like to argue that we want our personality to show through we must use our tweets for that not our profile. Profile is the first impression. We should allow people to get to know us before we blow their minds with our strong opinions!

    Great stuff again, Donna!

  16. Donna,
    All good points. I think it’s possible to show your personality and still follow these guidelines. Also, there’s such a thing as giving too much info that you wouldn’t share when first meeting someone, so why shoot yourself in the foot by avoiding connections that could be mutually beneficial? In the beginning, not realizing the power of social media, I said things I regret. Fortunately, I learned to be more discrete.

  17. I agree with some of the items on this list, and I strongly disagree with others. Yes, there’s a lot of information in Twitter profiles that will indeed talk you out of a job. There are a lot of terms listed up there which, were you to remove those Twitter accounts, it would be no great loss to the world.

    But not all. Do that, and the world becomes a grayer place. In fact, I’m sure there’s nobody left on Twitter once you do. But there’s something more serious than that going on. Much of that information it would be illegal for an employer to openly discriminate about – while you could never prove such a thing, would you really want to work for an employer like that?

  18. I hope a future employer wouldn’t hold it against me that I mistyped in my comment. lol

    Seriously: Looking at this from both angles I really do see your point. When you brand yourself online you have to consider what you share. I just disagree with some of your points.

  19. You mention that putting obese in your profile can cause employers to hesitate to hire. There is no hiding obesity. A future employer is going to know you’re obese the moment they see you.

    I do agree that you should not use words like sexy, hot etc and you should refrain from profanity or anything else unprofessional.

    I suffer from mental illness.
    I’m over-weight.
    I’m a survivor of abuse
    I have a daughter is Borderline.
    And I have lost a child.

    I don’t care who knows it. None of these things have any factor on my worth ethnics.

  20. I’m with Michael (above). If a prospective employer is looking for someone dull and “safe,” perhaps I’m not their girl. Not that I advocate rash self-exposure, gory personal details, or profanity-laced bloviating. But my online persona does reflect the real me — creative, enthusiastic, friendly, fun, a fan of certain musical groups and popular-culture phenomena, and a moderate political liberal — to a great extent. I’m OK with that.

  21. Joy, Michael, Adrienne,

    You all make good points. Everyone gets to decide when, and how far, to open their vest. The earlier and more publicly it’s done, the fewer job opportunities will come their way. Completely personal choice.

    Donna

  22. I agree there are certain things (foul language, pictures of binge drinking, etc) you shouldn’t post on social media sites, especially during a job hunt.

    However, social media is a means for connecting with people. To make authentic connections, you need to share real pieces of yourself. For me, that includes my values, religion and sometimes political views.

    If a potential employer chooses to discriminate a candidate based on this type of information, it is unlikely they would be a good fit for the organization’s culture anyway.

  23. So in other words, you have to be completely P.C., horridly vanilla and lacking of any personality. You know what? I’m proud to be a God-fearing, opinionated, conservative, pro-life, pro-Israel, sarcastic procrastinator. If someone doesn’t want to hire me based on those facts, it’s not my problem–it’s their discriminatory practices.

    I noticed you didn’t mention a word about sexual orientation… I don’t see how political affiliation is any less of a discrimination risk than being part of the LGBT crowd.

  24. I’ve made so many of the faux pas mentioned above, but that’s part of my brand. I’m an out-spoken, opinionated, qualified person who speaks my mind which is why certain people are drawn to what I have to say. They know they can trust me to speak the truth and not garnish it.

    Those who aren’t interested in truth generally move on which is fine because I’m not out to appeal to the general population. For the level of position I’m applying for I need to have strong opinions and goals because I will be leading others, not following trends.

    I got tired of censoring everything and realized long ago, you can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. Or however that fable goes again.:) Those who like me, love me.

    Those who don’t? Moving right along…:)

  25. I think your post is spot on regarding what not to put on public sites. However, people have a real chance to brand themselves for free on social networking sites. As with any type of conversation, it is a faux pas to arrogantly label yourself as an expert at something. If your writing and posts show you to be an expert, it is in your favor for the potential employer to easily access it. I understand privacy issues are a major concern, but personal branding is a big deal. Put out your best for the world to easily see! Everything else should be reserved for your memoirs.

  26. From what I have seen on others’ accounts, never, ever post things on these sites. It might come back to haunt later on. My picture isn’t even posted, not necessary. Employers will see what you look like when you come for the interview.

  27. Donna,

    Great thoughts!

    You are correct that Twitter has been overlooked. There are so many tweets and so little time, but tweets will show up if your name is “googled” by a prospective employer. Some people do tend to overshare and it very well could come back to bite them when they are job hunting.

    Remembering that the whatever you put on the internet will show up somewhere is key and what I tell people to use as a gauge is: would you want your grandmother to see what you wrote?

  28. Hi Ed,

    People want to be authentic but over-shares can cause employers to hesitate for many reasons: concerns about potentially offensive or disruptive behavior, concerns about work ethic, concerns about their healthcare premiums, etc.

    It’s important for job seekers not to raise these concerns if they really want to get a job.

    Thanks for the hello and your comment. I’m happy to be back!

    Cheers,

    Donna

  29. Donna, glad to see a new blog entry from you!

    You know, the kinds of things some folks put out on social media astounds me sometimes. A once in a blue moon moment of unguardedness is one thing, but some folks do these things as a matter of course.

    Astounding.

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