Privacy as we know it or expect it - has become a thing of the past. The Internet has made it so that we may never be able to forget anything. Information we believe is gone is still out there in cyberspace, ready to come back and remind us of long ago discretions.
It has become very common for hiring managers to investigate the social media profiles of prospective candidates. Even with good privacy settings, hiring managers may be able to see posts or photos that will sway their decision making.
A friend's daughter was applying for her first teaching position fresh out of grad school. At a recent interview, she was asked some difficult questions about photos she had posted to her Facebook page. While she was very ready to discuss curriculum development and class room management, she was ill prepared to have her judgment called into question because of photos from a graduation party.
Social media does not have to be your enemy. Of 2,184 hiring managers recently surveyed by CareerBuilder, one-fifth said a candidate’s online profile helped them land a position. The survey went on to report that one in five hiring managers (19 percent) said they found something that has caused them to hire a candidate – top mentions include:
- Candidate conveyed a professional image – 57 percent
- Got a good feel for candidate’s personality – 50 percent
- Candidate was well-rounded, showed a wide range of interests – 50 percent
- Candidate’s background information supported professional qualifications – 49 percent
- Candidate was creative – 46 percent
- Great communication skills – 43 percent
- Other people posted great references about the candidate – 38 percent
More often, though, it backfires: 43 percent said they found information that led them not to hire a candidate, up 9 percentage points from last year. That trend means either that more job applicants are behaving badly online or that human resources is getting more strict in sniffing out problems.
What to Do
Review Privacy Settings. Most sites have privacy settings that only let people in your network see your postings. If you don't feel that you want to or should have to edit your site, make sure your privacy settings are adjusted. However, just remember it's a small world. So the hiring manager or HR manager may know someone that knows you and through that may be able to see some of your postings, so this is not a fool proof method of protecting your image.
Photos. Any shot that shows you intoxicated, dressed provocatively (this goes for men as well) or behaving badly – take it down.
Rants and Raves. You know what I'm referring to here. Do you rant about a political figure, go off on a friend, have a bad breakup and let the world know how bad your ex really is? Take it down. Your ability to show poise under pressure may be part of a job requirement and your emotional explosions online show a lack of maturity that can turn a job offer into a rejection letter.
Prejudice. This is a more serious take on rants and raves. Tolerance and non-discrimination in the workplace is not only the law, its essential to having a positive corporate culture. Large or small, companies everywhere have a heightened awareness that diversity in the workplace contributes to success. Therefore, if you have strong beliefs on gender, race or disability issues, keep them private. You can be sure that any hint of prejudice will hurt your chances of being hired.
Social media in so many ways has brought people closer together and created communities where none previously existed. It can however work against you. If you are in the job market, make your profile as HR friendly as possible. Someone out there is watching you.
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