Dear Sam: My daughter graduated from college, started her first job, and was recently fired from her role as she made some disparaging remarks about her employer on her Facebook page. Needless to say, she is embarrassed and concerned about the impact this will have on her employment search. She needs to make her Facebook page completely private—or delete it entirely, in my opinion—but beyond that, what should she do to curtail any additional fallout from her actions? — Catherine
Dear Catherine: What a shame Catherine, an opportunity vanished in the stroke of a few keys. This is not the first time I have heard of this happening as candidates are just really learning that what they do “privately” can affect them “professionally.” First, as you know, but to reinforce for readers, everything on Facebook is the property of Facebook, so know, even if you have a private profile, your information is being viewed by those other than your “friends.” Likewise, if you post information and are not careful about your privacy settings, you could have a friend share the post, which could take the content entirely out of your control. If you are going to have a Facebook page, you must make it as private as possible unless you are never going to post anything on there that could damage your personal or professional character.
There are even companies asking candidates to log in to their Facebook accounts during interviews. I’m not joking. In fact, this is common enough that it even has a name—Shoulder Surfing! Providing anyone with access to your Facebook account, or giving anyone your password, is absolutely against Facebook policy. You should never allow an employer to see you log in to your account. If it is private, it is exactly that, private. Candidates should feel confident in refusing such a request and citing either the Facebook user policy or explaining that they themselves have a social media policy that defines never providing anyone with access to any of their social media accounts, nor would they ever defy a future employer’s social media policy.
As for your daughter, when she is asked why she left her past employer, she will indeed have to be honest. Being terminated and the reasons for such activity will be found out during a background check, so she has nothing to gain by not being completely honest. Besides, this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how she learned a lesson, overcame an obstacle, and moves forward. Employers know that employees will face challenges in the ordinary course of their roles, and they want resilient team members who are not easily derailed.
During her interviews, your daughter will want to tell the truth and immediately present what she learned from the experience. Explaining to a future employer the steps she has taken to ensure this will never happen again—making her Facebook page private and also maturing to the point that sharing a thought on a social media platform would not be her first reaction—will show professional and personal growth. It would be great if, due to this experience, she became more interested in social media security, its impact on brand equity and consumer behavior, and how a “community” of users interact to share thoughts and prompt actions. Depending on her career, this could show great insight into a topic of extreme relevance and concern for most companies today. I am sure she will get back on track quickly and one day reflect positively on a very valuable lesson learned early.