You were always told never judge a book by its cover, but that rule does not apply to hiring managers in the age of social media.

Quick: take a look at the last few things you’ve posted on each of your social media channels. Write them down. Now, reflect on why you posted what you did.

Guess what? The reason you posted what you posted doesn’t actually matter. What matters is how others will perceive what you posted, and believe us, they will think of the worst-case scenario because that’s just human nature. Hiring Managers and Recruiters don’t know you. That ironic hashtag is really only ironic to your friends, not to other professionals.

Let’s go through the process together, starting with your profile picture. Considering that is the first thing anyone looking for you sees, your profile picture alone could be make or break. Here’s mine:

some employers don

Seems innocent enough… except for the tattoo! Considering how displeased my mother is with it, I can imagine how it could put someone off.  Tattoos are not typically viewed favorably by society, particularly older generations.  Many industries are still very buttoned-up—investment banking, private wealth, private equity, real estate, law, and even some of the technology companies with history still operate under conservative conditions.  The list goes on.

Of course, this photo was taken after hiking up the side of a cliff (notice the sweat—yuck).  While I obviously like my tattoo, at C-Suite, I always cover up my ink, not only because it’s professional, but because I understand that tattoos–piercings, hair cuts, hair colors, painted nails, etc.– do influence the way others perceive your character. 

Perhaps after seeing this photo, you’ve changed your opinion of me; perhaps after learning that these important figures in history also had tattoos, you may change your mind about them. (Although I hope not!)

The first thing on my timeline is an article I shared about New York City subways in the 1970s and 1980s:

nyc subways

The article itself is a stream of old photographs of the NYC subway system.  Just a little pictorial history, right? Wrong.  Remember we said think worst-case scenario always; someone could think I condone vandalism (graffiti), that I am part of a gang, or that my fashion sense is as horrid as some of the individuals in the photographs (well, that last part may be true).  New York City in the 70s and 80s was chaotic, and the mention of those decades in conjunction with the City That Never Sleeps elicits words such as gangs, violence, drugs, danger, etc.When someone doesn’t know you, they are bound to think negatively and fill in any blanks they have with their own assumptions.  Trust us, no one is going to call you to fact check. 

They will simply see something they don’t like and move on.

Everyone has incriminating material on their social media; it may not be incriminating to one person, but someone else may get the wrong impression about you.  There will always be someone who is taken aback by the content you share online.  Check your privacy settings (we’re literally begging you) and make sure your default information such as your profile pictures, cover photos, and 140-character descriptions are all grandma-approved.

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