Can social media protest posts cost you a job?
Various social media trends have gone viral over the past week in relation to nationwide protests with social media protest posts such as #BlackoutTuesday and #BlackLivesMatter.
Protest-related social media comments linked to the wife of the owner of Arizona Foothills Magazine created a firestorm for the media company this week. But can posting protest content on a personal social media page potentially hurt a job candidate’s chances of getting an interview or being hired?
LT Ladino Bryson, CEO and founder of vCandidates.com, a Tempe-based firm that connects job candidates with vetted recruiters, spoke with azbigmedia.com about social media protest posts and shared her advice for individuals looking for a job and companies that are viewing candidate’s social media posts as part of the hiring process.
AZ Big Media: What are some important factors to consider for job seekers when posting protest content on social media?
LT Ladino Bryson: Job seekers need to realize that we all leave a digital imprint every time we post publicly, or respond to friends if their post is public, it is available for anyone to see. So, job seekers should really be mindful of setting their posts to private if they want to express emotional feelings that they do not want to openly share.
You also have to be able to stand by whatever you post. Nowadays all of our emotions are running high, low and everything in between, so top of mind should be to stop, write what you’re going to say, think about it before you press post. Make sure that you understand any consequences that could come from what you post–whether it’s the company you work for, want to work for or personally with your family and friends, you have to be able to take everything into consideration and as we like to say, post responsibly.
AZ Big Media: What are some important factors for employers to consider when looking at candidate’s social media profiles that include inflammatory or controversial content?
LLB: I think the biggest thing is employers are going to want to see if the potential employee is like-minded in their company culture and values. If the company’s culture is open to inclusion, then they would understand or seek to understand why a job seeker might feel the way that they do.
But there are some employers that might take offense to certain things if they don’t understand and it’s going to be really important for employers to be responsible for sort of bridging the understanding of what a job seeker might be trying to convey. If an employer is looking at what a job seeker is posting, they’ve got to take into consideration that emotions are running high the last few weeks. Some employers are going to have to give job seekers a pass; understanding why emotions are running high, and it’s really going to come down to what is going to be the best fit for that employer and if they’re going to be comfortable with what the job seeker posted.
If the employer finds that the job seeker has great talent, skills, and experience, they should have a conversation with that job seeker to see how they respond and to see if this was just a momentary post of frustration.
AZ Big Media: How can a job candidate still express their opinion on social media in a way that doesn’t harm their chances of getting a job?
LLB: I think the best way anyone can express what they post, whether it’s an image or a video, is to post it with a disclaimer of what the post means to them. The worst thing I think job seekers do is they share content without explanation of what they’re thinking or how they feel. Being able to articulate what the content means to them, how it’s affecting them, if they’re standing with it or against should be clearly identified.
As a mother of two black men in their twenties, but as a mother who’s also Afro-Latina and Jewish, I understand from a multitude of sides, looking at it from a 360-degree vantage point, more aspects of this situation than maybe can identify with. So, for me, being able to express frustrations or trying to bridge understanding between cultures and communities is more important than just putting out something without any type of disclaimer.
AZ Big Media: How can companies educate themselves on the issues surrounding these posts and be more compassionate with candidates who choose to express their opinion in this way?
LLB: I think that employers, who want to try to understand, first have to start by listening. That’s educating themselves on both sides of any issue. That may mean bringing in a consultant who can sit down with people who don’t understand, to have an open dialogue or forum for employees to express their opinions to see things from someone else’s perspective.
I think that is a great way to start. I’ve seen a lot of posts on LinkedIn with business owners saying, ‘I don’t understand, but I’m open to listening if anyone wants to reach out and help me understand.’ And, I’ve raised my hand on a couple of occasions to help assist with bridging that understanding.
I think that’s the most important thing at this time that any employer can do because it’s very easy to see things from a one-sided point of view. Employees have to be able to open up to know they have a safe place to have the conversation about what’s going on right now. Talking about the protests and what’s affecting the black community, as well as with other minorities in this case.
This is a time where we as citizens are going to have to dig a little deeper instead of jumping to conclusions. Ask for those within the black community to stand up and to express themselves and I wish that could be done in an articulate way, so that’s it’s more thought-provoking than just provoking.
AZ Big Media: How do you hope social media can be a platform for change with employees advocating for others and companies being more conscious of their online presence?
LLB: I think every company should have some type of responsible viewpoint regarding what’s going on currently. I think by coming out and expressing what they want to learn, what they believe, is very important because job seekers will be looking at employers, more so at their mission statements, to really understand what the company culture is and how they want to implement change.
I think that creating a social media page that is private just for the employer and the employees to share positive information; there are so many beautiful images out there, solidarity between communities, police officers and citizens, those positive images have to be reinforced within that company culture and creating a specific page for employees to share among each other I think will help bridge the communication and also look to elevate a company’s culture.
I’d like to think that people would be more open-minded to a conversation that utilizes social media in that regard and again that is in a private setting where they’re able to share among themselves and employees can have those dialogues. And employees can take it offline too and do team-building exercises, so this is a perfect time for employers to consult with diversity and inclusion or business consultants to help them bridge this gap more than ever…lines have been crossed so now we have to build a new road to go down, and that road has to be responsible, reflective, repentant and humble on all sides to really make the change.