Doh! How to lose a job offer on the Internet

  • The Internet is not private.
  • When you post things in public on the Internet, other people can see them.
  • You never really know who will see what you post on the Internet.

Though that sounds like the type of advice you'd give your Aunt Rhonda in 2002 when she put photos on, you'd be surprised how many people don't know these simple truths about the Internet.

How else can you explain the engineer who lost a job offer by asking the Internet for advice this week?

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When faced with two competing job offers from Zenefits and Uber, the engineer asked Quora what he should do. I know what you're thinking, "Surely Quora is a close personal friend, a Gandalf-type sage prone to giving wise personal advice to people facing decisions?"

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No, it's a Q&A site where you can post public questions and receive answers from strangers. It's a great site that certainly serves a bevy of purposes, but the word we need to focus on in that last sentence is "public."

Things you post in public are public.

When you write, "My biggest problem with Zenefits is that it isn't a buzzword like Uber," People take notice.

When you write, "I think that this (Zenefits) isn't as exciting a brand name to have on your resume when applying to the likes of Google." The CEO of Zenefits takes notice and then he revokes your job offer.

That's exactly what Zenefits CEO Parker Conrad did. He canceled the job offer.

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A lot has been made of his response to the engineer and Uber's positive reply, but that's not really what matters most. What matters most is that a talented engineer forgot that the Internet is not private. A talented engineer forgot that if you wouldn't do something offline, you shouldn't do it online.

Would that engineer have told the Zenefits team during the interview that his real goal was to work for Google? Of course not. You'd never say to a potential employer, "I'm just going to be here for a little while on my way to a better opportunity."

Would he have told his co-workers at Zenefits that the company offered him $15,000 more than Uber? Of course not. Telling co-workers what kind of money you make is like throwing a grenade of awkwardness into a team culture.

Would he have told the CEO, the one who got $500 million of cash infusion, that his company's name was not exciting? Of course not. Saying that would be a surefire way to sour a job interview.

So then why did he say all of those things online?

He said them because sometimes we forget that the digital bridges we burn, burn forever.

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If you talk bad about a company online, they will find out. If you share private information about your salary in a public forum, your co-workers will know what you make. If you criticize your last job online, your next job will have doubts about hiring you.

The next time you face a career decision, beware where you turn for advice. Beware where you share information. And above all, remember what you told your Aunt Rhonda.

The Internet is not private.

When you post things in public on the Internet, other people can see them.

You never really know who will see what you post on the Internet.

Commentary by Jon Acuff, author of "Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck." He's worked with some of the world's biggest brands including Home Depot, Staples and Bose. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter @JonAcuff.