There has been heavy coverage in the media recently regarding the consequences of misusing social media, however unintentionally. Many of these tales have revolved around ill-advised posts, made in the heat of the moment, which have seen the author very publicly losing their job.

While arguments persist over whether monitoring employees’ personal social media profiles is ethical (some will say that anything uploaded in the public domain is fair game), it’s a practice that most employers and recruiters will probably continue.

As such, it’s crucial that individuals are aware of how best to use social media so that they don’t self-sabotage their own job prospects. Here are a few tips to bear in mind:

Don’t be naive: once it’s out there, it’s out there

We’ve all had days where you need to vent your frustrations, whether you’ve been cut up by a bad driver or your hard work hasn’t been recognised. Facebook and Twitter are the perfect places to convey your annoyance and receive consoling messages, right? However, before you name and shame that manager or use foul language, remember that what is done cannot be undone, even if you try to delete the comment quickly. Unsurprisingly, a ‘heated’ comment can dissuade most recruiters and employers from progressing your application; some 70 per cent of recruiters admit to rejecting a candidate based on what they saw or read on social media profiles.

Don’t ever underestimate social media’s reach and think that your post will go unnoticed; instead, restrain yourself and perhaps vent to a friend in person because once a post is out there, it’s out there.

Ask friends not to tag you

While you can control your own content, you can’t always watch what your friends and acquaintances are posting. At any time, you could be tagged in an incriminating post or photograph which might show up on your timeline. It’s a good idea, therefore, to ask friends not to tag you or post anything referring to you without first seeking your agreement. Once they know you’re searching for work, they should understand.

Have a separate, professional social media presence

Your social media activity can work in your favour, if you know how to use it effectively. As said above, most employers and recruiters will Google prospective hires and the majority are looking for additional information which goes beyond your CV, information that could prompt them to invite you to an interview. That’s why it makes sense to create a ‘professional’ online presence, even before you commence your job search. LinkedIn is probably the most popular professional network, but you could always launch professional Twitter and Google+ accounts as these are examined by hirers.

These profiles offer the opportunity for you to showcase your skills and experience, to show that you are up to date with industry news and follow influential experts. Ultimately, they display you in a really positive light. Providing a link to these profiles on your CV could also stop the recruiter digging any further.

Privacy settings

We’re not saying you can’t have a social media presence in which you engage with your friends or share silly YouTube videos, far from it. Just ensure that your privacy settings are on and are tight. It’s well worth going through your account to check that this is the case. As a final test, Google yourself and see what comes up as it’s here that you’ll be able to see ‘unlocked’ Facebook profiles, etc.

The rule of thumb is to be sensible when using social media. Yes, show some character and personality but consider first whether what you are posting would impress a recruiter or damage your chances. Use social media to your advantage, not your disadvantage.