Schwab doesn't hunt down employees on social networks, aside from career networking site LinkedIn. But while she won't be estimating the level of alcohol consumption in a series of Instagram party pics, another interviewer might. Their motivation isn't a love of digging for dirt, but a desire to avoid having that dirt smeared on their company.
And though you know that you would never cuss out your boss the way you did that other-wing political nutjob online, your prospective employer doesn't. If you can't keep your private life private and your casual conversations civil, you raise doubts about what you'll do with company secrets or how you'll behave in meetings. That atmosphere of uneasiness doesn't lead to job offers.
"Choices about what people post online demonstrate their ability to make sound decisions," says Rogers. "If someone is making questionable choices about how they're managing their personal life (and being very public about it online), how would they behave once hired, with resources and reputation that don't belong to them?"
Hit pause' before you hit send'
When you're reeling from a bad day—or from an accumulation of so many bad days that you feel the need to change jobs—don't let your tech tools document your less-than-interview-worthy grumbles. Your thoughts may be fleeting, but once they become data, they can dog your footsteps forever. Likewise, when you record your personal life online, think about how it would look at work. Keep your conduct professional, and you'll keep your professional options open.
6 tips to keep your career safe with (or from) tech
1. Check your reputation. Google yourself. If the results would cause your boss to raise an eyebrow, get sites to remove the controversial material.
2. Be aware of time-and-date stamps. Even if the content in question is innocuous and has nothing to do with work, a tweet or Facebook comment indicates exactly when you're not working. Save your social networking for outside business hours.
3. Keep the commentary off company property. Your company owns more than office space. It owns the computer, the network, and perhaps the mobile devices you use, and it can call those back at any time. Chat logs are forever.
4. Never name names. If you feel the need to make an unflattering observation about your boss, don't do it by name—even when posting anonymously on a look-inside-the-company site such as Glassdoor. A simple egosurf by your boss may turn up your remarks, and your distinctive writing style may lead right back to you.
5. Don't post anything about work on a public forum—or even a semipublic forum. You can keep your social network privacy settings high, but you can't control another person's privacy settings. Cut-and-paste makes your zingers easy to share, and you never know how clueless your Facebook friends are until you catch them at it.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.