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

Future employers search for candidates' presence on Twitter and other social media sites. Why? They’re looking for dirt, that’s why.

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!

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.

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

  1. Faith & Spirituality: atheist, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Child of God, Christian, Druid, God fearing, God loving, Mormon, Muslim, Wiccan, Zen, etc.
  2. Ego: expert, I’m a pretty big deal, leading authority, Mensa, renowned, snob, etc.
  3. Ethnicity & National Origin: Black, Caucasian, Chinese, etc.
  4. Family Information: divorced, domestic violence survivor, single parent, etc.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Personality: addict, angry, drama queen, mama’s boy, Nazi, obsessed, opinionated, party animal, procrastinator, rabid, reckless, sarcastic, stubborn, 20 cats, whiner, whore, etc.
  8. Physical & Mental Health & Abilities: ADD, bipolar, cancer survivor, compulsive overeater, deaf, diabetic, hypochondriac, multiple surgeries, smoker, phobic, etc.
  9. Politics: conservative, Democrat, had enough of the government, Libertarian, pro-Israel, progressive, pro-Life, Republican, socialist, Tea Party member, etc.
  10. 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.

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles and blog at AvidCareerist. For more information, you can find my LinkedIn profile here or email me at

Views: 181

Comment by Sarah Shook on November 9, 2010 at 5:35pm
If you take away all of those things then what is there left to post about on Facebook? Most people, like myself, use Facebook for our friends and family, and other sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) for professional purposes. The whole point of Facebook is to share yourself with your friends. My advice would be to make sure privacy settings are in place so that other than your immediate "friends", no one can see your profile or what you post. There's a difference to posting about yourself and taking it to an extreme.

The best rule of thumb to follow is "if you don't want it posted in the newspaper, then don't post it on Facebook".

Just my opinion. :)
Comment by J. Jeffrey Hallan on November 11, 2010 at 11:49am
Absolutely true - without those things, what's the point of Facebook OR Twitter? You could certainly post information outside the parameters of those guidelines, but your posts would be BORING, uninteresting and generally pointless, since, as Sarah says “The whole point of Facebook is to share yourself with your friends.” And, although Sarah's advice is good, it's been proven time and time again that the "security" functionality of Facebook is an illusion. In fact, the soundest advice given to users is that you should never post ANYTHING, regardless of privacy settings that you wouldn't want "posted in the newspaper". It logically follows, then, that being an active Facebook or Twitter poster is a high-risk activity for anyone using those services for their generally intended purpose. Those that ignore this fact regularly become the victims of their own ignorance. Just another way to “thin the herd” for a good Recruiter.
Comment by Donna Svei on November 11, 2010 at 12:42pm
Thank you Sarah and Jeffrey for your comments. I agree with your newspaper test. Never put anything in writing, anywhere, that you wouldn't want to see above the fold on the front page of the New York Times -- or that you wouldn't want your mom to see.

Also, kindly remember that the post is directed to job seekers. They can be "interesting" by posting information that recruiters want to know about them. Here are 12 ideas for starters:


Comment by Boris Stefanovic on November 11, 2010 at 1:44pm
I agree with Sarah with one caveat: you cannot control your friends' privacy settings. If you make a comment about a photo (or appear in a photo) that is somehow compromising, you have to hope that the friend whose profile it's attached to has their privacy settings cranked up. And then you have to hope all their friends who might "share" that picture or "like" your comment are also secure. It's messy and risky even though your facebook is meant to be open to just personal friends.
Comment by Stephanie Bressan on November 11, 2010 at 10:47pm
Hmmm - is it just me or do we hire people based on not only their abilities, BUT also on who they are?? I don't care if everyone knows I am a Christian! If I was a member of Mensa, you can be sure I'd want people to know that too! I think the point of social media is to be genuine, then people can truly see who you are, what your values are and what type of person you are. Is it not better for an employer to know that upfront, instead of 3 months down the track and then having to recruit and train all over again? I think (the same as Sarah, Jeffrey and Boris), you need to be aware that what you post is there for everyone and and anyone to see and be aware that how you behave can be posted by others - so if you always behave in a way your Grandma would be proud of (or at least respect as who you are as an individual), then why can't we be authentic on social media?! IMHO!
Comment by Debbie Cantin on November 12, 2010 at 2:30pm
Hmm, I concur in part, people are hired based on their abilities; however, it is way too easy to form a bias from some information that was disclosed on social media sites. A rule of thumb is would you want your mother to see what you have posted?
Comment by Boris Stefanovic on November 12, 2010 at 3:34pm
The best way to avoid forming a bias is to avoid digging into candidate information on social media sites in the first place. Offhand I can't think of a legitimate line of inquiry that would be best addressed by such an action but I can imagine abuses of a social media data source costing people opportunities as a result of discrimination.

Although we have to recognize that it is happening and advise candidates accordingly (as per Donna's OP), I don't believe "digging up dirt" is an acceptable avenue for vetting applicants and, as a profession, we have an interest and an obligation in discouraging this practice.


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