Justin Leung is director of Ambition.
What to do when those old social media posts come back to haunt you
I have been on Facebook since its very early days, when I was a student, and back then, I was a bit carefree about what I would post and share on it. As my career has progressed, I have become a lot more careful about posting things and I have adjusted security settings, as I am aware that posts from the pasts can later come back to bite. I have also “scrubbed” my public posts but it is not always possible to catch everything. What advice do you give to someone if an employer or a job interviewer brings an old social media post up?
Although this probably won’t happen, it certainly brings up an important point – social media is part of our daily lives and the content you create can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. As the line between professional and personal lives continues to blur, in the context of social media, one should consider the impact when posting content via such platforms.
As you rightly pointed out, content that you share, even from the distant past, can resurface. As a result, it is extremely important to share content that best represents you, your values, and how you would like to be perceived both professionally and personally.
Back to the question – what do you do when an employer brings up an old social media post? Firstly, don’t go on the defensive immediately. The interviewer could simply be intrigued by your posting and want to gather more information about you as an individual from the post in question. It is also common for interviewers to “throw a curve ball” at you, simply to see how you react to a challenging interview question.
However, if we are talking about a post that you are not particularly proud of, or worse still, content that would be considered inappropriate or unprofessional in the workplace, then you will have to navigate skilfully out of the situation. My general advice for you is – be honest and be brief.
If at all possible, try to understand the context of why the interviewer has brought up the social media post, as this will give you an opportunity to understand the areas of concerns and what the interviewer might be looking for. Be factual, succinct and objective – this way, you avoid coming across as defensive and trying to justify your content. Take a moment to gather your thoughts before you address the interviewer as this will allow you to share more openly and in a relaxed manner.
Keep in mind your interviewer will probably be looking for someone who is level-headed, genuine and takes responsibility for their actions. Many of my candidates have successfully developed their own “personal brand” through effective social content strategies. By sharing relevant content and offering insights and subject matter expertise, they become recognised and well respected within their communities. This takes time, effort and discipline but, after all, it can add tremendous value to your career in the long run.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as When social media posts come back to haunt you.