People concerned about their careers should be extra careful about what they post on the Internet during a recession, career counselors say.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and other venues present numerous opportunities to sabotage your hunt for a job or promotion at a time when employers can afford to be picky.
"With social media, you can be vapid, boring and annoying with alarming frequency," Patricia Vaccarino, owner of a Seattle public relations firm, warned clients in a newsletter.
Vaccarino said many of her Facebook friends have posted "in great detail about their colonoscopies, dead teeth pulled, dead dogs, flatulence, adult acne, marital breakups, battles with mental illnesses and drinking problems."
If this information can make friends cringe, she added, imagine the impression it would make on a potential employer.
Kurt Weyerhauser, an executive recruiter at Kensington Stone in Los Angeles, said one human resources department "found a picture online of a candidate smoking what appeared to be pot, and in another case a company found a few severely off-color jokes that a candidate had posted dealing with race and gender."
He said the blunders can be roadblocks to being hired, regardless of the candidate's ability to perform the basic functions of the job.
Hiring people with that kind of public record online may even put a company in legal jeopardy.
"If there is ever a problem with drug use or the harassment of coworkers the company could be liable," he said.
In some U.S. states, hiring or promoting people who have exhibited drug use or racist or sexist attitudes "could constitute negligent hiring or negligent retention," Weyerhauser said.
Even innocuous postings can cause problems.
He cited the example of the single mother raising four children who posts about her day-to-day life, which might convince an employer that she is too tired and overburdened to be considered for a promotion that might require more time and energy.
Weyerhauser had one final tip. He urges job hunters to think about their e-mail address.
"Nothing gives one more cause for pause than receiving a resume from an e-mail address like 'BigGoofyRuthie@xxxxxx.com'," he said.