8 cringeworthy social media mistakes that cost candidates the job

BY STAV ZIV FOR THE MUSE

We know you’ve heard you should clean up your social media so that you can be a presentable professional, especially when you’re looking for a new job. But do you know how it could actually hurt you?

We’ve collected real stories about candidates who were well on their way to snagging a new role, but didn’t, all or at least in part because of a social media post (or posts) someone on the hiring side found during the vetting process.

That’s right, something they did on social media got them dropped like hot potatoes.

So before you “yeah, yeah, fine” your way into ignoring what is arguably one of the most frequently uttered pieces of career advice in the age of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and more, you might want to read about these eight people who didn’t get the job.

In some cases, these candidates clearly behaved badly. Other times the post or posts in question revealed something about them that made them seem like less of a fit for the role or company. So while we at The Muse certainly advocate checking your privacy settings and deleting things you wouldn’t want your future boss to see, keep in mind that sometimes, you might decide it falls under the category of: “If they don’t like it, I wouldn’t want to work there anyway.”

For example, if a company decided not to hire you because you’re really outspoken online about pay transparency or racial diversity or LGBTQ rights or unions or whatever issue (or issues) you’re passionate about, it’s probably not a good fit for you as much as you’re not a good fit for the company. That’s fine–great, even–as long as it’s a conscious choice.

1. WHEN A CANDIDATE WAS ARGUING AGGRESSIVELY

Shawn Breyer and his team at Breyer Home Buyers in Georgia were doing a final round of vetting. A promising candidate had reached the end of the interview process for a transaction coordinator role, in which they’d handle things like paperwork, scheduling, and other, well, coordinating among sellers, lawyers, lenders, title companies, and more.

That’s when the team found Facebook posts (on the candidate’s public account) that made Breyer and his colleagues hesitate. The candidate was posting political content, which during a presidential campaign wasn’t unusual and wasn’t in itself an issue. But they were also arguing animatedly and aggressively with anyone who disagreed.

“We viewed this as this individual would struggle if someone on the team wanted to take a project a different direction than they had in mind,” Breyer says. “We want our team members to be able to set aside their differences and work together, and we felt that these actions showed that they wouldn’t be able to perform this way consistently.”

The candidate, who Breyer says otherwise was likely to get hired, didn’t get the job.

2. WHEN A CANDIDATE LIED ABOUT HER MOM DYING

Rich Franklin is the founder and president of KBC Staffing, a staffing and recruiting agency in the Bay Area, so he’s seen his fair share of social media snafus over the years.

There was the time a candidate for an administrative assistant role called to cancel her interview at the last minute. Her mother had died, she told them. So of course they understood and had no problem rescheduling. Soon afterward, she emailed again to say she needed a bit more time. Still, no problem.

But then someone thought to look her up and found her Facebook profile, featuring a picture of her out to dinner with her mother the day after she’d supposedly died. They sent her a screenshot and never heard from her again.

I can’t imagine a scenario in which lying about your mom’s death is excusable–even if you don’t mess it up by posting evidence to the contrary on social media–but the lesson applies more broadly. Don’t lie about less absurd things either, and make sure how you’re representing yourself on social media doesn’t contradict the story you’re telling in your application. For example, don’t go on and on about how you love working on a team in your interview and post everywhere about how you think people are the worst.

3. WHEN A CANDIDATE WORE A SWASTIKA IN HIS PROFILE PIC

Another time, Franklin and his team were hiring for short-term construction projects. “A man had completed his interviews and was all set to be hired,” he recalls. “We found him on Facebook and his profile was locked down. That wasn’t a problem for us, but we decided to click his profile picture anyway. There was our candidate wearing a biker jacket with a swastika.”

Once again, they sent him a screenshot of what they’d found and got no response. “He had the right background and right skills,” Franklin says. “He was definitely going to get the job.” But not after the swastika.

4. WHEN A CANDIDATE FOR A DAYCARE JOB POSTED MEMES FROM THE SUBREDDIT/CHILDRENFALLINGOVER

Yet another time (seriously, he has a lot of stories), Franklin’s agency was hiring for jobs at a new daycare. In this scenario, the background checks needed to be more thorough than for some other projects and the agency outsourced the work. The candidate in question had a Twitter account–it wasn’t in her name but it linked to another profile that was–that featured reposts from the r/ChildrenFallingOversubreddit.

Although the posts were a few years old, and though “I don’t think it was anything malicious, we didn’t want to take the risk,” Franklin explains. “We didn’t want anyone who had made fun of children to be at the daycare,” he adds. “If somebody else saw this, like one of the parents, it just would be not a good look for the company.”

In this case, the agency called the candidate, but Franklin emphasizes that it wasn’t a negotiation. “Our job is to be pretty conservative,” he says. “That’s something people should know. If you’ve been hired and people really like you, you might get a second chance if someone finds this. But before you get hired, it’s not likely people are going to give you the benefit of the doubt, because they don’t know you.”

5. WHEN A CANDIDATE WAS REALLY ANGRY (AND SWEARING) ABOUT SPORTS

In a competitive job search, you want to do everything you can to set yourself apart from any other equally qualified candidates. We generally talk about that truism in terms of the positive ways you can prove you’re even just a smidge better than the other applicants. But it also means avoiding something that will make you seem like a riskier hire than another finalist.

Jill Pante, director of the University of Delaware Lerner Career Services Center, once led a search committee that was trying to make a final decision between two very strong candidates, who were “equal in skill, passion, and overall fit for the office.”

One of the candidates didn’t have much of a LinkedIn presence, which was somewhat concerning in a role where he’d have to teach and set an example for students looking to enter the professional world. That might not have tilted the scales so much in itself, but that same candidate’s Facebook profile was also full of anger and expletives in posts about how sports teams he followed were performing.

It was “F this person, F that guy,” but spelled out and sometimes in all caps, and not just in a post or two, Pante says. People are passionate about sports, sure, but there were at least half a dozen of these posts dominating his feed. “I would say all but one of us found it kind of shocking. It was the thing that sort of moved the needle in the other candidate’s direction,” Pante says. Plus, the other candidate’s profiles were “free from any F-bombs or controversial posts.”

6. WHEN A CANDIDATE EXPRESSED A VIEW ANTITHETICAL TO THE COMPANY’S VALUES

Cristian Rennella, the cofounder and CEO of elMejorTrato.com–a search engine for loans and other financial products with a presence in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and several other countries–was looking for a new CTO.

Finding someone with the requisite technical skills was a challenge, but they had at least one promising candidate. When they took a look at his social media history, they found a tweet in which the candidate stated that having a university degree is a requirement to get a job as a programmer.

“This goes clearly against the culture of the company, where we consider that someone should not be qualified by their titles or by the lack thereof, but for [their] true ability to write code,” Rennella says. “The challenges are going to change and if the team has people who are flexible and can adapt to new changes on their own, then we have more chances of success in the long term.”

They told the candidate about the disconnect between his stated view and the philosophy of the company, where many programmers do not, in fact, have university degrees. “We respect his opinion but we do not share it. And we thought it would not be the best place to work for him.”

7. WHEN A CANDIDATE POSTED TROUBLING SKETCHES

In one of his previous roles, recruiter Matt Dodgson (currently a director at Market Recruitment) was working on hiring for an advertising account manager position, a job that would require interacting with clients and coordinating with various teams. While researching one of the candidates, Dodgson found a Tumblr site he published under “an artsy pen name.” Still, the candidate would often link to it from his Facebook page with posts like, “I just crafted this masterpiece, check it out!” In other words, not so private.

“The site, it turns out, is a collection of doodles he makes exclusively while at work,” Dodgson says. But that wasn’t actually the problem. Lots of people doodle on the job, and it’s been shown to improve focus. But his drawings were “usually mocking or making derogatory comments at particular people, including clients,” and featured “fat-shaming and sexist remarks,” Dodgson says. “If this is how the candidate thought about women in doodles, how might he interact with women at work?”

Now, this candidate didn’t have the job in the bag; there were some other concerns, including answers to interview questions and reference calls that couldn’t quite confirm his track record as a team player. Even so, one of Dodgson’s colleagues gave him a call to give him a chance to explain his side of the story. “Ultimately, when he did not get the role, we told him that the selected candidate had strong client experience (which was true),” Dodgson says. But the sketches certainly didn’t help.

8. WHEN AN ALMOST-INTERN POSTED ABOUT HIS PLANS TO PARTY ALL SUMMER

Just because you’ve already gotten an offer doesn’t necessarily mean you can post anything you want with impunity. Regina Moravek, an HR expert and contributor to The Muse who used to work as a university career services director, recalls a college junior who’d landed a summer internship in HR.

“In his post to share his good news about getting/accepting the offer, he added something about being excited to ‘party all summer in [company location] at his upcoming summer internship with XYZ Co.,’” Moravek says. The company, which not surprisingly found the post, was so displeased that it rescinded its offer.

Job searching isn’t easy. So don’t make it harder on yourself. Spend some time combing through your social media accounts as though you were that hiring manager you spoke with or that boss hiring for their team. Based on what you see, would you hire you? If the answer is no, ask yourself why. And decide whether you stand by your posts at the potential cost of this job, or want to whip out your figurative Windex and scrub those profiles.

Pets At Work? It’s A Thing.

Pets in the workplace: How to manage liability of this employment benefit

BY CHERYL SARFATY, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

To allow dogs or not to allow dogs at work? That is the question. And it can be a tricky one.

Outside of laws around the Americans with Disabilities Act for accommodating service dogs in the workplace, businesses that choose to provide a dog-friendly environment say it’s a great employee benefit.

But what if Fido bites a staffer or runs roughshod through the office, destroying any equipment or furniture in its path?

Liability in the workplace falls first to the employer, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a member-based, 501 tax-exempt-status organization headquartered in New York City.

If an employee’s dog bites a co-worker, the business insurance policy would kick in and pay the claim, according to the organization.

However, it adds, the dog owner may also be found liable, and the victim could potentially sue the employer and the dog owner.

As of now, “there is nothing in a general liability form that excludes pets at work,” said Bryan Costello, executive vice president of San Rafael-based Costello & Sons Insurance Brokers. He suggested some companies may want to underwrite to limit exposure.

A commercial general liability policy will cover the associated costs with dog bites for business owners, according to Chandra Kwaske, commercial underwriting director at Burns & Wilcox, a Detroit-based brokerage firm. “Like a homeowners and renters policy, the CGL will usually cover the cost of medical bills to the injured party, legal and court fees related to the incident. … The CGL generally will not cover the costs associated with reputational damages, such as crisis communication efforts to combat negative media attention.

Organizations whose business is focused on dogs, such as Santa Rosa-based Canine Companions for Independence, are fully prepared on the liability front, according to Jeanine Konopelski, national director of marketing.

Canine Companions trains puppies to become service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities. After a dog completes the training program, it matches it with the person it will assist, based on activity levels and personalities.

The organization’s insurance policy covers incidents — like bites and damage to property — that could happen throughout the service relationship, which can last many years.

“In the unlikely situation that a liability event occurs for one of our puppy raisers or graduates having to do with an action made by their dog, we want the people we serve to know that our insurance policy covers them,” Konopelski said. “Additionally, it provides institutions where our facility dogs may work (hospitals, courthouses, etc.) with added assurance that we take responsibility for the actions of our dogs.”

Dave Kendrick, co-founder and managing partner at San Rafael-based DogTrekker.com, which provides information for people who travel with dogs, said there are several steps businesses must consider before letting dogs on the premises.

“There are people who either don’t like dogs or have allergies or other health issues that need to be considered. Rules need to be established based upon the size of the organization, layout of the work space and other considerations,” Kendrick said. “It’s wise to form a pet committee prior to committing to opening the doors to dogs to identify these issues, establish policies, review insurance policies, work with HR and test the plans. A great way to test out how it would work with pet parents and employers is an open invitation to participate in the annual Bring Your Dog to Work Day, which will be held this year on Friday, June 21.”

Businesses that allow dogs could also have a leg up when it comes to staffing.

“For the company, having a dog-friendly office allows them to attract and keep top talent,” he said, “as well as fostering increased collaboration throughout the office and bolstering the workplace culture.”

That’s the direction Glassdoor took when it became a dog-friendly workplace in 2013. Launched in 2008, the jobs website provides employee reviews of companies, employer salaries and benefits, job postings, and original articles and blogs.

“There’s been research done showing that pet-friendly policies do help companies attract and retain talent,” said Glassdoor spokeswoman Amelia Green-Vamos. “Plus, with the unemployment rate at an all-time low, employers must incorporate appealing perks to attract top talent. A dog-friendly office is a cost-efficient perk that many offices can implement.”

Before inviting dogs into its Mill Valley headquarters, Glassdoor established rules and guidelines, including requiring all on-site dogs to be housebroken, socialized and without barking issues, Green-Vamos said.

“(We) also have designated areas for those who have allergies or work more comfortably without dogs around,” she said. “Ensuring all employees are comfortable is a critical component before an office decides to become dog-friendly.”

“It’s a very sweet idea to have a pet-friendly workplace but we find that it can be difficult to manage,” said Lindsey Brown, HR consultant at Santa Rosa-based The HR Matrix LLC. “Unfortunately, although most of us are animal lovers, we have seen a variety of undesirable impacts, including pets that were aggressive, messy, loud, or allergy producing. In the end, we usually caution our clients to analyze the benefits versus the potential the risks. It may be more suitable to offer a planned ‘bring your pet to work day’ versus having it be an ongoing policy.”

Read the original post here.

Mentally Strong Women Refuse to Do These 13 Things

Getty Images

By Amy Morin for Inc.

There’s societal pressure to engage in these unhealthy habits. But they’ll drain you of the mental strength you need to be your best.

You build mental muscles the same way you build physical muscles–exercise. Good habits (like lifting weights) will help you grow stronger. But giving up counterproductive bad habits (like eating too much junk food) is key if you really want to make progress.

While the exercises that build mental muscle are the same for both men and women, gender can play a role when it comes to the counterproductive bad habits that can keep you stuck. It only takes one or two bad habits to hold you back from reaching your greatest potential.

My newest book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do, outlines the bad habits that women are more likely to adopt. Cultural expectations, societal pressures, and the subtle differences in the way we raise girls are just a few of the factors that encourage women to engage in these unhealthy habits.

Recognizing your unhealthy habits is the first step in creating positive change. Here are 13 things mentally strong women don’t do:

1. They Don’t Compare Themselves With Other People

Whether you’re looking at Instagram photos of a celebrity’s vacation, or you’re hearing your friend talk about her latest raise, comparing yourself with others is tempting. But every minute you spend comparing your life with someone else’s life is 60 seconds you aren’t focusing on your goals.

2. They Don’t Insist on Perfection

Perfectionism has a cruel ironic twist; It’ll cause you to experience such high levels of stress that your performance will actually become impaired. Establish high expectations for yourself, but don’t set the bar impossibly high.

3. They Don’t See Vulnerability as a Weakness

Your game face definitely serves a purpose–it shows people you’re serious. But asking for help, acknowledging your weaknesses, and admitting you don’t have all the answers aren’t signs of weakness.

4. They Don’t Let Self-Doubt Stop Them From Reaching Their Goals

Your brain will try to convince you that you’re not good enough, capable enough, or smart enough. But don’t believe everything you think. Your brain will underestimate you.

5. They Don’t Overthink Everything

Rehashing the same things over and over again and worrying about everything that could go wrong wastes precious time and mental energy. And it will take a toll on your psychological well-being. Commit to problem solving and productive action, rather than ruminating and overthinking.

6. They Don’t Shy Away From Tough Challenges

Whether it’s a promotion to a leadership position or it’s an uncomfortable conversation you need to have with a friend, avoiding tough challenges will keep you stuck. Face your fears one small step at a time and you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

7. They Don’t Fear Breaking the Rules

From a young age, many girls are taught the importance of being polite and well-mannered. But it’s the rule breakers who change the world.

8. They Don’t Put Others Down to Lift Themselves Up

It may be tempting to try to elevate your own status by pointing out someone else’s flaws. But genuine cheerleaders are the ones who really succeed in life.

9. They Don’t Allow Others to Limit Their Potential

Whether someone told you that you’d never amount to anything or you got turned down for a promotion, other people can limit your potential if you let them. Build the belief in yourself, and you won’t let criticism or rejection stop you.

10. They Don’t Blame Themselves When Bad Things Happen

While it’s important to accept personal responsibility when you make a mistake, toxic self-blame does more harm than good. Saying “I made a bad choice” is much more productive than thinking “I am a bad person.”

11. They Don’t Stay Silent

From business meetings to social gatherings, studies show women don’t get nearly as much airtime as men. Speak up and find your authentic voice so you can be heard.

12. They Don’t Hesitate to Reinvent Themselves

As you mature, your personality, priorities, and values will shift and so should you. Whether you make a complete career shift at age 40 or you decide to embrace your spirituality at 60, reinventing yourself is key to personal growth.

13. They Don’t Fear Owning Their Success

Women are afraid of looking arrogant or too ambitious. Even when complimented, they’re likely to pass the credit onto someone else or give an immediate compliment back. Practice giving a simple “Thank you,” and own your achievements.

Build Your Mental Muscle

Fortunately, everyone has the ability to build more mental muscle by changing the way they think, feel, and behave. And the best way to grow mentally stronger is to work smarter–not just harder–by giving up the unhealthy habits that are holding you back.

WSJ: How the Fleece Vest Became the New Corporate Uniform

By Jacob Gallagher

THE FLEECE ZIP-UP VEST, the capstone of a new corporate uniform, lurks in air-conditioned corporate cubicles across America. It covers the sweating backs of nervous interns ordering supersize coffees at Starbucks . It’s worn by silver-haired executives in the elevator, heading up to their corner suites. It appears in myriad shades of gray and blue, on men of all shapes and sizes who earn all kinds of salaries. It has become as ubiquitous as the take-out salad in humdrum workplaces, and is slowly supplanting the suit and tie as essential office wear.

Typically, the vest is worn over a button-up shirt and paired with chinos and brown dress shoes of any flavor. “The uniform” is how this ensemble has been branded around the office of one 36-year-old working in capital markets in Pittsburgh, a past practitioner of the much-mocked look who asked that his name be withheld. During a recent trip to New York City this month, he observed scores of men wearing gray fleece vests even as temperatures touched the mid-90s.

The trend is so pervasive that an Instagram account with nearly 40,000 followers, The Midtown Uniform (@midtownuniform), has sprung up to savagely document these corporate clones in cities like New York, Toronto and Washington D.C. The anonymous account adds pithy captions to crowdsourced photos, riffing on the omnipresence of this particular outfit. “Money isn’t really yours unless you’re fully vested,” read a caption on a recent post showing two men in matching pink shirts and blue vests. Despite the implicit ridicule, the comment sections on these photos are littered with friends tagging each other and saying things like, “Bro, this is so you.”

Will Crowley, a 25-year-old investment banker who lives in Hoboken, N.J., is well aware of The Midtown Uniform account, yet it hasn’t inspired him to give up the ubiquitous outfit. “There are times where I can’t just wear a shirt. I kind of have to wear a vest,” said Mr. Crowley. He owns six vests, which he calls a “staple of people who work in finance,” mostly from Patagonia or Vineyard Vines. He rotates through the vests during the week, unless he’s meeting with a client, in which case he wears a suit.

The midtown uniform appears to have taken hold post-2008, when many financial firms loosened their once-strict suit-and-tie dress code. The message was: We know your salary is down, but at least you get to dress casual on Friday! “The payouts regressed, so just like every industry that has payment difficulties, they find other ways to satisfy employees and dress is one of the easiest ones,” said a 35-year-old stock trader in New York City, who also asked to be anonymous. He was on the floor during the 2008 recession, and described how the sport coats and wool slacks gave way to vests and cotton chinos in its aftermath.

Though midtown New York has now become especially associated with this new dress code, the vest’s roots lie in Silicon Valley. “If you go to the Whole Foods here you’re going to see [the vest] everywhere,” said Christina Mongini, the costume designer for HBO’s parodic sitcom “Silicon Valley” and a Bay Area native. Jared Dunn, the show’s type-A COO, wears a fleece vest over a button-down in nearly every scene in which his character appears. Said Ms. Mongini, “Jared’s style is really perceived as the normal basic understated business-casual attire.”

Outdoorsy fleece vests matched the youthful, countercultural Silicon Valley spirit in a way suits and ties never did. Bay Area C-suite executives such as Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal cofounder Max Levchin have boasted of cycling or hiking during the work week. As Ms. Mongini said, “You can hop on your bike and throw your vest on and head over to Santa Cruz on your lunch break if you wanted to.”

Across the nation, the vest was an easy sell. “It’s very difficult to just sit there and work in a suit jacket,” said the 35-year-old stock trader. In a vest, “I can sit at my desk and feel a little bit more comfortable.” Aiding and abetting the trend toward sleevelessness, a couple of years ago brokerage houses and trading platforms shrewdly started giving away the vests as a freebie to entice traders. The vests’ low cost was a way around financial regulations (which cap gifts to traders at $100) and the wearable promos were more functional than the giveaways they replaced such as candy tins and Nerf Footballs. These promotional vests, with “Equifax” or ”Merrill Lynch” embroidered along the chest, are now a common sight in New York.

The trend has become self-perpetuating: People wear the vest because it’s what people wear. “Now it’s the new thing: It’s not suspenders and a bengal-striped shirt,” said Mr. Crowley. “It’s a Patagonia vest and a button-down shirt.” He added that the “bro-culture” of finance has helped reinforce this look, with its scores of men following the same path from prep school to the Ivy League to a job in finance. Looking like your peers is part of the package. Said Mr. Crowley, “If you want to be successful, part of it is wanting to fit in.”

Though young professionals do typically want to fit in, the fleece vest can also help them tackle another insecurity. The Pittsburgher who’s mostly given up the vest part of the uniform admits that it had its uses: “As I’m aging, I would say it hides your belly.” Who says fashion isn’t functional?

The Vest In all of its glorious shades of gray and blue (or even black, for true renegades), the fleece vest is the pièce de résistance of the corporate clock-puncher’s uniform. Bonus points for your company’s name stitched on the breast—yes, that’s a thing.

The Button-Up Shirt The trusty base layer of today’s cubicle armor, often in safe shades of blue, white and pink. The only item more contentiously conventional than the fleece vest is the blue-and-white gingham shirt, so wearing both clearly brands you as someone who colors within the lines.

Slacks The Midtown Man favors beige-colored chinos, with pleating for the over-40 gentleman and a flat front for under-40 guys. Gray wool pants are the winter-friendly option.

The Lanyard Sure, you could tuck it in your pocket, or keep it in your wallet, but then how would everyone know where you work so they can find you on LinkedIn later? It’s all about the connections.

The Coffee Cup Because how can you get through a grueling 12-hour work day (after crushing tequila shots the night before) without a venti double shot latte? The Midtown Man whips out his battered Starbucks Rewards card at coffee shops from Rockefeller Center to Richmond, Virginia.

Brown shoes From chocolate-brown brogues by Allen Edmonds to cafe-au-lait square-toed Rockport loafers to topsiders straight off the sailboat, brown shoes are the anchor of the Midtown uniform.

Write to Jacob Gallagher at Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com

Read the original posting here.

U.S. Job Openings Drop, but Still at Lofty Levels

Reuters Lucia Mutikani

Read the full story here.

U.S. job openings declined in November as a result of sharp drops in construction and other services. Job openings fell by 243,000 to a seasonally adjusted 6.9 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Hiring declined 218,000 to 5.7 million in November, and the number of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs fell 112,000 to 3.4 million. The quits rate was unchanged at 2.3%, and the layoffs rate remained at 1.2% for a second consecutive month.

The latest job openings data did little to change views that the economy is facing a shortage of workers. “It won’t get easier for small businesses to fill open positions but it’s premature to conclude there are significant labor supply issues,” said Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics.