For every employee who has spent hours scrubbing their Facebook profile of photos of themselves chumming it up in a bar or deleting posts detailing their obsession with reality TV, here’s an irritating reality: all that work may not have been worth it.
According to a survey released in May by employment firm Challenger, Grey and Christmas, social media matters to employers, but not nearly as much as you might think. Fully 40 percent of human resources executives say they don’t check social media before hiring employees and another 38 percent say they only sometimes do. And perhaps more important, of the hiring managers that did check social media, only 6 percent said that it had a significant impact on their hiring decision.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that prospective employees are off the hook when it comes to social media (remember, six in 10 employers at least sometimes check it before hiring). And, as John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, puts it: “There is no way of telling how a prospective employer treats or reacts to social media impressions…as with most endeavors, it is probably best to err on the side of caution and consider your social media activity as an open book that will be factored into hiring decisions.”
That said, you may be overthinking how much you’re sanitizing your social media profiles.
Andrew Bauer, the CEO of fashion company Royce Leather, says his company uses social media to screen employees and points out that there are a number of things employees might scrub from their profiles that they needn’t. Drinking is one of them: A photo or two where you have a cocktail in your hand, for example, won’t hurt you at all, though a consistent pattern of drinking might, he says.
“Photo after photo of you with a red solo cup at a keg party isn’t a good idea,” says Dusty Lefdal the owner of employee screening firm Employer’s Investigative Services. “You don’t want to show excess, says Marc Dorio, career coach and author of “The Idiot’s Guide to Career Advancement.” And even in a state where marijuana is legal, a photo of you smoking a doobie on Facebook probably isn’t a good idea.
Sometimes, religious or political beliefs or sexual orientation are fine too. Bauer, for example, says that he doesn’t care what religion, political party or sexual orientation you are when he’s making hiring decisions. But, of course, some hiring managers (though they likely won’t admit it publicly) will care about this, says Dorio. “It’s risky,” he explains. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Lefdal’s advice with an issue like this is to screen the company you’re applying to before you overhaul your social media. If you want to work for a notoriously conservative organization, for example, it might actually benefit you to share your conservative political beliefs via social media.
Furthermore, you needn’t strip all personality from your social media profile, says Dorio. Bauer, for example, points out that his company wants “to hire people who are interesting, charismatic — we want personality, for someone to be happy.” That means that silly videos (read: you rocking out to Queen), lighthearted jokes, and similar items don’t necessarily need to be taken down. Just make sure that what you post would fit into the company’s culture, says Dorio.
Bottom line, explains Lefdal, is that “employers are looking to social media to see if you’re a liability or might cost them money.” So delete photos that show things that might hint at addictions, laziness or other qualities that would hurt a company — and make sure the rest is in keeping with the company’s culture — and you’ll likely be fine.
This article originally appeared on MarketWatch.com and is reprinted by permission from Marketwatch.com, ©2015 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved.