TIME Careers & Workplace

Doing This on Social Networks Could Cost You a Job

A portrait of the Facebook logo in Ventura
A portrait of the Facebook logo in Ventura, Calif., on Dec. 21, 2013 Eric Thayer—Reuters

With his Blurred Lines parody, Weird Al is onto something: America’s grammar stinks. And there’s strong evidence that it’s so bad, it’s costing us jobs. A new survey from CareerBuilder finds that about a third of HR managers say they’ve taken an applicant out of consideration because of “poor communication skills” on social media.

Yes, people know by now that posting pictures of them funneling beer or making racist jokes on Facebook will probably take them out of the running, but even the types of grammar errors Weird Al is skewering can be enough to cost somebody a job.

CareerBuilder says a third of the roughly 70% of HR managers who use social media to check out candidates have dropped them from consideration because of “poor communication skills.”

More than nine out of 10 HR professionals say they see poor communication displayed on candidates’ pages, says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS, a talent acquisition company. “Job seekers should pay special attention to their social media profiles, ensuring all publicly accessible information is professional,” she says. “It’s difficult for a recruiter to ‘unsee’ these references.”

In other words, sometimes it’s not what you say online: It’s how you say it that can be a dealbreaker. We asked HR pros what would give them pause if they ran across it on an applicant’s social media page.

Bad or nonexistent punctuation: “If they can’t punctuate, if they can’t make a coherent sentence, then they are not, in my opinion, what we’re looking for,” says Thomas Anderson, a panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management and director of HR at the Houston Community College System. “If they don’t punctuate properly, you get a sense that the way they probably write all the time.”

Misspelled words: According to Vitale, 47% percent of recruiters say spelling errors are their biggest turn-off when reviewing a social media profile. Spell-check is there for a reason, people.

Incoherent rambling: “The employer is more apt to question your professionalism if you show a pattern of misspelled words… or your commentary seems rash, uninformed or non-cohesive,” says Jennifer Grasz, spokeswoman at CareerBuilder.

A stuck caps-lock key: “If they’ve got it all in capitals, that’s a big red flag… that indicates in social media or email that you’re shouting,” Anderson says. This is a widely known bit of online etiquette, so an applicant that isn’t savvy enough to pick up on this might have serious knowledge or social skills gaps elsewhere.

Using words the wrong way: Using words incorrectly can also trip you up in an employer’s eyes, Grasz says. If you’re not sure what a word means, look it up.

Texting shortcuts: It might be natural for people — especially young adults — to abbreviate words with letters or numbers when texting, but Grasz says it can be a turn-off for hiring managers if your conversations on social networks are riddled with this kind of shorthand.

 

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