More people are pounding the pavement in search of employment than ever before. People from all walks of life and age are vying for the same positions. With thousands of people on the same quest, how do potential employers narrow down their decisions? What happens when two candidates are equally qualified? Years ago, the hiring manager may have simply flipped a coin to make their choice or gone with a gut instinct. These days, though, they are much more likely to turn to the Internet to figure out who should be hired. Your social profiles are a gold mine of information when someone is trying to figure out if you will fit into their company. If you’re about to embark on a job search, it’s time to clean up those pages people.
If you’re like me, you have Googled yourself on more than one occasion. When was the last time you looked at those results as though through another person’s eyes? How incriminating are the profiles you have online? What would the head of Corporation A think about the drunken party pictures on your Facebook wall? I’m sure that the personnel manager of Company B will adore reading about the way you escaped a ticket by lying to an officer, as posted on your Twitter stream. Do you see where I’m going here? You cannot be too careful these days. Potential employers can – and DO – search you out online.
How can you protect yourself, then? We know you aren’t going to stop posting things online. The first thing I recommend is to go back and do that Google search. Go through any and all links you find that have to do with you. If they are something derogatory posted by another person, contact them and see if you can resolve the situation and have the content removed. Be sure to check through the Google image results, as well. I’m not sure you want to see what may be in there, so why would the person you’re counting on hiring you need to?
Facebook is usually the first place a person doing the hiring will look for you. You need to remember that they are not only going to see whatever you post to your Wall. They will see snippets of what you post to others’ Walls. They’ll see any Pages you may have associated yourself with. It’s not a great idea to try for a management job with Peet’s Coffee if you’ve sworn your undying love on Facebook for Dunkin’ Donuts, right? Don’t forget to check out photos that others may have tagged you in – those can be the most dangerous of all! Remove your tag from anything which doesn’t reflect so well on you – pronto! Look at the Groups that people have added you to without your even realizing it. You may want to get yourself out of there – and fast. Also, head into your Privacy center and make sure that pictures others tag you in do not show up in the large picture strip at the top of your profile now. You can do this by heading into the Privacy Settings, click Customize, scroll down to Things Others Share and then choose to customize Photos and Videos I’m Tagged in. While you’re there, you might also want to make sure people cannot check you into places. That could get sticky!
There are many other places a potential employer will gladly check you out. What have you been saying on Twitter lately? Are you ranting like a lunatic about things which don’t even make sense after a long night of playing Quarters in the dorm room? Are there links to half-naked pictures on Twitpic or Flickr? Those are sites you likely hadn’t thought of, but could affect that job you’re praying to get. Take down any photos that your Grandma shouldn’t see, and you should be safe from the prying eyes of the head hunters. Consider making your Twitter account private when heading out on interviews or sending out resumes unless you’re sure there’s nothing incriminating there. Again, remember that it’s not only about what YOU put online… you have to be mindful of what others say to and about you, as well. Twitter apps these days allow us to take a look at @ messges. Even if you post only sweet things on your own account, others may be ranting at you about the sad state of your life. That’s not going to look so hot during the interview process.
LinkedIn is a fantastic resource and one you should be taking advantage of. Sign up for the service and fill in as much information as you possibly can. Be honest – people will quickly find out when you’re lying. Padding your credentials on this site is just as bad as doing so on your actual resume – and is potentially even worse, depending on the type of job you’re going for.
The largest thing you need to keep in mind is that making your accounts private or only allowing friends to see what you’re doing does not necessarily keep a hiring manager’s eyes off of your information. Billy was a college student who applied for his dream Internship – working in a government office. His Facebook profile was set to allow only friends to view. During the interview, though, he was questioned thoroughly about things found on his FB wall. The interviewer explained that as a state agency, recruiters accessed his Facebook account under the auspices of the Patriot Act. Luckily for Billy, he had friends in high places and received his coveted spot anyway. You may not be so lucky.
The easiest – and hardest – thing to do is to not post anything online which could bite you in the ass later. The temptation is so strong, though, to share more of our lives than ever before. You may be fourteen now, but you will be twenty in just a few years. What will the head of that state agency find on YOUR Facebook Wall?