pixabaysocialmediaWhen it comes to employment and social media, the First Amendment does not apply. You can, in fact, get fired for what you write, post, and share online, and it is not a violation of your Constitutional rights.

As HubShout’s June 2016 Social Media Conduct Survey found out, most people don’t understand the risks of posting their unfiltered thoughts and photos on social media, nor do they quite understand the actual conditions of the First Amendment.

Free Speech and its Limitations in the Workplace

When asked, ”Do you believe that getting fired because of a social media post is an infringement of First Amendment rights?”, 41.2% of respondents said “Yes,” and 30.4% said that they were “Not Sure.” That makes a total of 71.6% who do not know the truth about their rights and limitations.

In reality, if you get fired from your job in the private sector because of something you posted on social media, citing your First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech is futile. That is because this Constitutional right only allows individuals to express themselves without constraint by the government. Your speech is not protected from disciplinary action by your employer.

In other words, you won’t be thrown in jail for griping about how much you hate your boss, but you could lose your job. It seems pretty obvious now, right?

In 2015, 18% of employers fired an employee for something they posted on social media. Granted, businesses should have a social media policy for employees, outlining what is acceptable and what is grounds for termination; however, many companies don’t establish these kinds of rules at all. Regardless, an employer has the right to fire an employee because of social media even if the company has not provided a written policy. Therefore, as an employee, you cannot depend on the right to free speech.

Social Media Etiquette for the Job Seeker

It probably won’t come as a shock to learn that what you post on social media is fair game for future employers. Those privacy settings you skimmed over when you set up your Facebook account are flimsier than a rotten plywood fence. You can be sure that hiring managers can and will do their research, so you should always think of social media and your employment aspirations as closely connected.

A survey conducted by careerbuilder.com revealed that 49% of employers who screen candidates via social networks have found information that caused them to decide not to hire a candidate. There are a number of reasons to reject an employment application; here are the five most common reasons hiring managers cite.

Top Five Social Media ‘Turn-Offs’ for Employers

  1. Inappropriate or provocative photos, videos, or information
  2. Posts about candidates drinking or using drugs
  3. Offensive comments regarding race, religion, gender, etc.
  4. Negative posts bad-mouthing previous company or co-workers
  5. Poor communication skills

According to JobVite, as many as 93% of recruiters use, or plan to use, social media for hiring. The reality is your social media profile is an extension of your resume; it is an interview that never ends. A prospective employer might take one look at your Facebook profile and toss your application aside immediately. You may never know that those photos of you doing a keg-stand in college or that angry political rant you posted last week actually cost you a job.

Social Media: Can’t Work With It, Can’t Work Without It

If your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts are considered extensions of your resume, then they are actually much more important than you realize. Just as you can’t get a job without a resume, 41% of employers say that they are less likely to even interview a candidate with no web presence. Hiring managers need to be able to find information about you online. Wouldn’t you rather have control over what they find?

Job seekers should think of social media as an opportunity to showcase their “brand.” For the most part, when employers look for information about candidates online, they are not looking for problems or red flags; they are searching for insight into how you live your day to day life.

“What candidates do in their spare time and broadcast to the world through social media speaks volumes about their personal values and culture,” Val Matta, vice president of business development at CareerShift. “The hiring manager knows that, in hiring that person, they’ll likely bring those values and culture into the office. So it must align with, or contribute positively to, the organization’s current culture.”

Your social media profiles, or lack thereof, say a lot about you. In a nutshell, keep the content positive, professional, and representative of your best qualities.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of American adults use social media, and 90% of young adults (ages 18 to 29) use it. Since the practice of posting to social networks is so prevalent, HubShout wanted to find out if people are aware of the damage that social media can do to a person’s career and personal “brand.” As a digital marketing firm, HubShout understands the importance of personal branding and was interested to see how much people really know about the social media-employment connection. The full results and analysis of the survey are in the HubShout’s 2016 Social Media Conduct Ebook.

This guest post was written by Danielle Lachance, a premium writer at HubShout.