Losing your job while you’re off duty isn’t a concern reserved for professional athletes. More and more hiring managers talk about using social media as a candidate pre-screening tool. And over the past few years, we’ve seen a real surge of people who’ve lost their jobs for things they’ve done off the clock. Companies of all sizes are utilizing outside forces to determine if a person is worthy of representing their brands, both inside and outside of the office.
Take, for example, the Buffalo Bills fan who was caught on national TV sliding down the concrete banister. Despite his harmless intentions, Robert Hopkins was found guilty of second-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree assault because he landed on and seriously injured a fan below. He had a great job at an ad agency, but, unfortunately, the firm wasn’t interested in that type of press. Or the Little League Dad who wasn’t forthcoming with his employer about riding in the backseat of a police cruiser downtown after physically assaulting a father from the opposing team. And Google wasn’t helping matters – his mug shot was the first image to come up in the search results as soon as you punched in his name.
The point is, unless an employee can point to discrimination as the cause, his employer can terminate him for any type of behavior deemed unacceptable. Technology has only made it easier for employers to find a reason. I recently spoke with Lisa Stefanie, President of Triple Track, an outsourcing and consulting company. We discussed the firing epidemic responsible for crippling so many careers, and when we broached the subject of social media, she groaned with frustration. Lisa has seen many organizations make up their social media conducts as they go along, and very few bother to write down policies in their employee handbook. According to Lisa, there are countless cases pending in the court system because the laws required to address these issues are missing.
And if you don’t think your employer is checking you out on social media, you’re naïve. If an employee is culpable of any kind of negative behavior, companies aren’t hesitating to say goodbye. In fact, we found out that one of our employees was doing consulting on the side through his LinkedIn profile. For us, it explained the lack of full-time productivity we were getting from his remote time working. We even have clients who go trolling on job boards to see if any of their employees have been sending resumes out, and most employers don’t even ask why their staff members were looking elsewhere before showing them the door.
The workforce is calling these rash decisions unjust, but many believe that, since their company doesn’t have their social media “dos” and “don’ts” in order, they’re untouchable. Once you’re let go, and the news is out there, explaining the situation to the next potential employer can be tricky business – trust me, it’s part of my job.
Have you started on your job search plan? Complete with resume / cover letter guides and useful checklists, our free Job Search Toolkit will help you get your career off the ground and track your progress.