There is an unofficial rule about keeping your social media “squeaky clean” once you start working. This means you shouldn’t make inappropriate posts—including offensive posts and sharing private information about your company—because it might cost you your job.
Some companies even check your photos to see if you post anything that could potentially threaten their image. A 2014 Oregon State University study found that women judge other women who post revealing photos on social media, and instantly see them as less competent.
That’s exactly what happened to Emily Clow, a 24-year-old who was called “unprofessional” and shamed by a company for posting a swimsuit photo.
According to Buzzfeed News, Emily submitted an application for a marketing position in Kickass Masterminds. After Emily filled out other application materials, CEO Sara Christensen took a screenshot of Emily’s swimsuit photo and posted it on the company’s Instagram Stories. (Yes, the official account. Yikes.)
“PSA (because I know some of you applicants are looking at this): Do not share your social media with a potential employer if this is the kind of content on it. I am looking for a professional marketer—not a bikini model,” Sara wrote. “Go on with your bad self and do whatever in private. But this is not doing you any favors in finding a professional job.”
When Emily saw the post, she called out Kickass Masterminds on Twitter where most of the backlash came from.
— Emily Clow (@emilyeclow) October 1, 2019
Since the incident, Sara Christensen set Kickass Masterminds’ Instagram to private, and disabled the company’s website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. She also posted a statement on Medium where she apologized to Emily.
“In a very human moment, I made an error in judgment by posting to my Instagram Stories about a job applicant’s online persona. To anyone watching: I am a great case study in what NOT to do. To Ms. Clow: I apologize for my behavior. I intended you no harm. I should never have made that post,” she said. “I have absolutely learned a lesson in this event, and while I’m not ready to publicly address it in detail, I will let you know if or when that changes.”
HR checking your social media
A 2011 Reppler survey found that 91 percent of employers use social media to screen prospective employees. Facebook is the top platform they check (76 percent), followed by Twitter (53 percent) and LinkedIn (48 percent). It also noted how employers would start checking social media accounts as soon as they receive an application.
Here’s the interesting part: When asked about rejecting candidates, the top reason was lying about qualifications with 13 percent of the responses. Other results included rejection because they posted inappropriate comments (11 percent), posted negative comments about a previous employer (11 percent), and posted inappropriate photos (11 percent).
While we understand the need for background checks, snooping on someone’s personal social media is an unfair measure of their character. Especially if they’re not posting anything problematic (ex. racist and homophobic remarks) on their pages.
“Time” noted that even if a company has a neutral stance, an employer can still have subjective feelings about what a candidate posts on their public accounts—may it be a photo or their opinions on political matters. A potential employee could be discriminated against or, in Emily Clow’s case, objectified even before they even get a job interview.
READ MORE: 7 tips to get you ready for a job interview
Swimsuits ≠ unprofessionalism
For the longest time, we’ve been told we need to “dress appropriately” to look professional. Sure, following a corporate dress code is fine. But it shouldn’t go as far as telling someone swimsuit photos are unbecoming as an employee of a company.
A social media platform is where people share their lives and their creativity with people they know. In the case of Emily Clow, she wore a swimsuit to a pool party and posted it—there’s nothing wrong with that. The fact that she was judged for doing so and made into an example of “an employee that doesn’t get hired” is discriminatory and also sexist.
Women are often expected to dress “femininely” in companies. (For example: Many would require them to wear heels daily.) When they don’t comply to the already restrictive dress code, some companies will tell them to conform to the sex-based stereotypes of what “professional dressing” should look like.
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This may also mean that if a woman is being discriminated upon in the workplace, her actions and what she chooses to wear outside of it will also be observed. It’s an endless cycle of female objectification wherein regular women are looked down upon when they show skin. But more influential ladies like Beyoncé or Rihanna are seen as empowering when they do the same thing.
Aside from this, a Recruitment International study found that women are told piercings and tattoos make a negative impression to businesses. But because of the younger workforce, body modification is now more accepted by companies as it’s seen as a form of personal expression.
Obviously, people’s lives are different in and out of the workplace. If they’re not making highly offensive remarks about certain topics or posting politically incorrect photos, then no one should base their competency on swimsuit photos.
Kickass Masterminds was out of line for shaming Emily Clow, and their CEO is right: This is a great case study of what not to do when you don’t want to hire a prospective employee. But also, it’s a good example of not making assumptions about a person’s work capabilities based on what they wear or how they present themselves on social media.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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