This week On Device Research released a study showing that 8% of 16-34 year olds in the United States believe they have been denied employment because of their Facebook profile. The study showed that the percentage was 16% in China.
While this study has some inherent flaws in it (see note at bottom), it brought up an interesting question that I had not really considered before now:
Can complaining online about a company hurt someone’s job prospects?
Obviously, many employers are googling potential applicants these days. While much has been made of having unprofessional and inappropriate social media profiles, little if any has been mentioned about the possible damage from people’s online histories with brands.
I think it is a potentially dangerous area for people.
Imagine two applicants competing for the same job. Both have been smart about making sure their public social media profiles do not present an unprofessional image. However, one of the applicants has a history of lighting up brands on social media. He’s banged on his car rental company for making him miss an interview and his cable company for keeping him on hold.
On hold with Witchita Falls Cable customer care — again! #NotSoSuperBowl
All other things being equal, which applicant gets the job?
Snapshots of Frustration
Even legitimate complaints on social media can present a skewed picture of the person’s personality. Many online brand complaints present snapshots of frustration.
Let’s face it: When someone is in a job interview they have their best face on (usually!). They are not showing interviewers how testy they are with family members or how uptight they are before their morning coffee.
Yet, that is the face online complaints show. People at their worst — frustrated, aggravated and just plain ticked off. It doesn’t matter if the person made three phone calls and sent five emails trying to resolve the issue. It doesn’t matter if the person gave the company every legitimate chance to solve the problem before complaining publicly. All employers see is the complaint.
Apparently, Acme Bank hates long term customers. #ScamFees #epicFail
Is this something a (smart) person would say in the first five minutes of a job interview? Of course not. Yet, with the way Google ranks things, it might be one of the first three things a hiring manager sees about a person.
And don’t even get me started on people who are applying for customer care jobs…
An Open Question
As I said, I had not really considered this aspect of online complaints before and a quick online search did not show any real discussions or data on the subject. (Please share any links if you know of any.)
Logic would suggest that if unprofessional social media posts can affect people’s job prospects then angry, frustrated online complaints might have the same effect.
It’s a tough market out there. Online complaining about companies might just give hiring managers one more reason to say no.
What do you think? Can complaining about a company online reflect unfavorably on job applicants?
NOTE: Speaking to the United States portion of the study, this is a tough subject to research. Asking people why they were not hired is inherently inaccurate because most of the time they do not know. On the one hand, the data is probably overstated by people creating “reasons” that are psychologically convenient why they were not hired. Blame it on Facebook. In contrast, the data is probably understated by the fact that, in the current U.S. HR climate, many employers who do not hire someone based on a social media profile will not tell the applicant that. They simply will not call at all.