Here’s a good example of the importance of knowing what to share and what not to share on social media, also a good example of why it is extremely important to pay attention to instructions when applying for a job.

I understand the frustration of hiring managers when candidate don’t follow instructions. If I ask for “three writing samples” in my posting, that means “three writing samples.” Not two, not seven – three. And it certainly is not an invitation to writing something like “I didn’t include any writing samples because I don’t do things the conventional way.” Seriously. Go away. You’re not getting the job.

Anyway, enough about my problems. The CIA has problems too. It seems, according to CNN, that social media oversharing is causing trouble for the Central Intelligence Agency’s spy recruiters.

The agency’s top recruiter reportedly tells CNN that every year, the CIA has to drop supposedly “stellar” candidates because of things they say on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

I’m a little surprised at the use of the word “stellar.” You’d think secrecy would be a spy’s top priority (You had one job!) and that this blatant lack of discretion would make them less than stellar. But what do I know? I’m not a recruiter for the CIA.

“Obviously, secrecy and social media are at odds with each other,” said the CIA’s Ron Patrick.

“Once we’ve expressed some serious interest in their application we say: Don’t follow us, don’t like us. And if they have, we asked them to back off a bit.”

He explained that sometimes wannabe spies make it all the way to the in-person interview stage, then go online and post something like, “I interviewed with CIA! Dynamite interview!”

He’s not saying you can’t have a social media presence. He’s just saying, don’t be, you know, dumb.

He said, “It’s a question of trust and integrity. They can’t follow instructions and handle the severity and importance of the job they’ve applied to.”

Patrick also gives an example of another job search faux pas: getting caught crowd sourcing cheating tips.

Last year, the CIA withdrew a job offer when it was discovered that the candidate had taken to social media to ask advice on how to beat the polygraph.

Ha. Come on. How could you not think you’re going to get caught doing that? It’s the CIA. It’s what they do.

Also, Patrick doesn’t say this but I assume that, once you get the job, you probably shouldn’t update your LinkedIn to say “Undercover Operative.”

Looking to Canadian Intelligence, I’m pleased to report that I didn’t find any CSIS spies on LinkedIn, except maybe this guy. And he might be joking.


There’s a simple lesson to be learned here but one that goes a long way: if you want the job, act like it.