If you’ve used LinkedIn for more than a few months, you probably know users are divided on the issue of whether to connect with anyone who asks. One camp – mostly those with highly socially-driven jobs, like marketers – say yes, in most cases, because a broad network uncovers greater opportunity for sales. Employees of companies, however, may want to assess the risk more carefully, as researchers recently confirmed “71% of hiring decision-makers agree social media is an effective screening tool for job applicants.” (Recent survey, Express Employment Professionals – Sarnia, Ontario)

The lesson? Your connections and posts could hurt your chances of being hired or keeping your job.

We all know not to post pictures of ourselves with drink in hand, lampshade on head, etc. But the advice to tread carefully online goes further, citing greater vigilance at work, since each workplace has its own culture re: social media.

According to Bruce Hein, an Express franchise owner, “Some workplaces have a very tight-knit team who are friends outside of work as well, while others view their boss and colleagues as a strictly professional relationship. How you interact with colleagues at work really is based on where you work and the type of connection you have with your peers.”

While social media can be a great way to bond with coworkers or build teams, remaining professional is paramount. Whom you connect with, the content you post, and the comments you share reflect on you AND your employer, representing your decision-making skills – so posting political rants, religious opinions, or personal opinions about co-workers can ultimately cost your job.

Experts also agree the employer must create a Social Media Code of Conduct so employees can align their behaviors. What’s “offensive” to one is fine to another, so put it in writing!

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn rules as the most professional platform, Facebook and Instagram are more personal, although many companies maintain a presence on these sites as well. Knowing your company’s social media rules will guide you in your online behavior while on these sites.

Bottom Line? Think before you post.

“As much as platforms promise privacy, there are always loopholes, and content online lives forever. Don’t let a bad post cost you the job, before or after hiring.” ~ Express CEO Bill Stoller

Does your employer have a Social Media Code of Conduct? If not, do they convey “the rules” or are you in the dark as to what’s acceptable?