Chances are at some point someone in HR with too much time on their hands is going to Google you. Unless you are a John Smith, it would be wise to be proactive when it comes to your Internet presence, lest your potential new employer dig up your Facebook album called "CANCUN PEED ON MYSELF" and decide the last thing they need is another lush with a bladder problem on the team.
Let's be real about it: people are idiots. They're so stupid they check in to their actual home address on foursquare and often don't realize that just because there's a "delete" button, that doesn't mean you can so easily wipe out your social media trail.
Generally speaking, an easy way to hide out in Google is to use a different email address for your social media accounts than you do for communication with potential employers. That way they can't just do an email search for you (especially important for the John Smiths out there) in Facebook and pull up all those humiliating bad food porn shots of yours. Trust me, they're checking. When I was hiring, there was not a single candidate I did not stalk. One even took to Twitter after she was rejected to complain about how much we sucked, pretty much assuring that our promise of keeping her on file for the next round of hiring (we actually meant it at the time) turned into a quick trip to the shredder for her résumé.
For Facebook, the first obvious thing is to keep your profile private – duh, you should already know that. And don't forget, individual albums have their own privacy settings so don't make the mistake of thinking just because your wall is private all your photos are too. If you think no one cares about your musings on waiting for the bus and eating dinner, be warned that the one time you drunk Facebook about how much you hate your boss, it could end up on We Know What You're Doing. Granted, it doesn't show last names or profile photos but it isn't as hard to put 2 + 2 together as you might think – like if you're the only guy in the office who plays kickball and got sent to an inventory count on a Sunday. What do you think the odds are that Ryan F. is an accountant?
You're not a celebrity and Twitter is not your diary for all to see
On to our next point, THINK BEFORE YOU TWEET. If your real name is attached to your Twitter account, please refrain from complaining about coworkers, clients, bosses or life in general, really, as that can get awkward if you're doing so in the middle of the day when you're supposed to be working. Trust me, some firms are far more social media savvy than you think – I know of several specific cases where people HAVE gotten fired for making comments about the client on their Facebook pages so assume just to be safe that people are watching before you rant about how much the client sucks. I've also seen a young staff tweeting about how they got so drunk the night before they were still drunk at work, which in case you are not aware is just not cool. Going to work still drunk from the night before is a time-honored tradition among young staff, but have some class and keep it to yourself, drunky.
If you absolutely must use Twitter as your own personal sounding board, use a fake name. If you're going to talk shit about clients, you're tiptoeing across an ethical line that could cost you not only your job but your CPA license so either just don't do that (preferred) or at least be smart enough to make your account private. Better yet, buy one of those Lisa Frank diaries we all had in middle school and write out your frustrated rants there instead. Dear Diary, Adrienne had the nerve to block me from making comments on GC today, that bitch… The Internet is not your personal diary, keep that in mind. Tweets are aggregated all over the place, so if you misspeak and don't catch it in time to delete it, it might be out there FOREVER, tied to your name and your picture.
We shouldn't have to discuss LinkedIn but…
LinkedIn is the easy one because it's hard to act like an ass when you're essentially writing a dynamic, social media résumé. The only tips there are to: A) use LinkedIn in the first place, B) fill out your profile, C) get some recommendations if you can and D) don't use bullshit language and talking points when describing your expertise and experience. Easy peasy. Oh and use a decent picture. For the purposes of this post, your taken-in-the-car selfie does not count as decent, even if it is a cute pic.
Rules still apply in the Bronies chat room
It's also wise to get creative if you're going to sign up for forums where you think you might be anonymous too. Let's say you're from Milwaukee and a Bucks fan, so your email address is BUCKS4569@aol.com (made up example, don't spam whoever has that email) and because you're an uncreative accountant, you use BUCKS4569 for everything from Yahoo! to the Baby Center boards to that one really racist white power message board you signed up for seven years ago when you were kind of a dick and believed in the purity of the white race. Again, I say this from experience because I have Googled just the first part of some potential new hires' email address and you would not believe what I found. Luckily one candidate's post on a marijuana smokers' forum did not disqualify him since we were in California and no one there cares if you smoke weed. Still, it shows a lack of judgment, or at least an inability to be discreet.
Before we let you go, a couple more things
Even private social media accounts are subject to subpoena in a court of law. Will your employer go that far just to find out if you're bitching about work? Probably not. Is it possible? Just assume it is and behave accordingly.
Remember: if potential employers are Googling you – at least as it pertains to the accounting industry – it is probably less about wanting to stalk you and more about wanting to know that you are the kind of person who can handle important, high value clients with discretion. If you're constantly blabbing about everything on social media, what's to stop you from putting clients on blast too?
Does anyone out there know someone who has been fired for their social media activities? Have you yourself gotten busted? Do tell in the comments, you might save some young dumb new hire from making the same mistake.