January 10, 2013; Source: Global Times

Social media can often expand opportunities and has increasingly become a valuable source for finding employment and volunteer opportunities, but it can also hinder some job seekers. Last week, NPQ published a newswire on National Public Radio’s use of Twitter in recruiting new interns. Yet as this article in the Global Times points out, social networks like Facebook also create a predicament in which a user’s entire life, from their friends and interests to where they are physically located or will be in the future, is open for the public to see—and judge.

There are now six states which have passed laws banning employers from requesting social media account passwords from staff and applicants, yet Congress is still sitting on any federal legislation. NPQ has previously documented instances of firings that came about due to social media posts and how nonprofits should address these concerns. On the organizational level, we have urged nonprofits to discuss this issue and implement consistent social media policies. But for the individual worker, here are some tips that err on the side of caution:

  • Browse over your photos and recent posts and remove or privatize anything you might consider inappropriate or that you wouldn’t be proud to show your family.
  • If you are working with an organization that has a strict non-partisan policy (which most nonprofits do), make sure you aren’t aggressively asserting your partisan political views unless you include a disclaimer. Many Twitter profiles have included disclaimers in their descriptions such as, “All opinions are my own.”
  • Utilize privacy settings. With Facebook’s versatile new settings, you can segment posts to a specific audience, and you can always check how your profile appears to another user by clicking the “View As” option in Facebook settings.
  • Facebook also allows users to request approval of anyone tagging them in posts or photos before they appear on your wall for all to see. This may be a useful tool to provide you with an extra layer of control over your social media identity.

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Do you think employers should spy on their prospective or current employees through social media? NPQ would be interested in hearing the perspective of nonprofit human resources staff and other nonprofit employees on this issue. –Aine Creedon