Managing your non-professional Social Network during a job search
By Uri Allen, CPRW
I love stories and I especially love stories that have a moral to them…think Aesop’s Fables, tortoise and the hare and all that good stuff. Well, today I’m going to tell you a story from the book of Uri’s Fables. Once upon a time there was a girl who had finally found her dream job as a preschool teacher for a local organization in her town. She had a great résumé, aced the interview, wowed the hiring manager, her credentials and references were pristine and she passed the background check. Everything was coming up ponies, rainbows and unicorns for the girl. Shortly before the hiring manager was going to call with an offer he Google searched the girl (as he does for every potential candidate) and much to his dismay he found her Facebook filled with pictures of the girl drinking, partying and general debauchery. He knew that if he was able to find these pictures of the girl than surely the web savvy parents of students could find them as well…and that would be REALLY bad for business. The hiring manager composed a rejection letter, neatly sealed it in an envelope addressed to the girl and picked up the phone to offer the job to another candidate who did not have pictures of herself drinking and partying wildly for all to see on the internet.
Now unlike Aesop’s Fables, Uri’s Fables are true and this was a factual recounting of events that actually took place at an organization I worked for. And stories like these are not uncommon. These days hiring managers are using the web and its vast amount of information to narrow down candidates to only the best of the best. If a job seeker has a less than stellar web presence this could have a direct impact on their ability to become employed. So as a job seeker you have to ask yourself what are employers seeing when they search for you?
The first thing any job seeker should do is fire up their favorite search engine (I’m partial to Google), put their name in the search bar and sift through the results. If you have a common name, you may want to Google-fu and use some search modifiers to weed out the erroneous results. Does your Facebook show up with your shady spring break pictures? Has that Myspace you created years ago when you went through your Goth phase appear in the search results? Doing a web search is often a quick, easy and free way for employers to do a preliminary background check and since they aren’t pulling information with your social AND information that is pulled is public, they do not need to get a release form signed to access this information. If your social networking profiles are public, believe me it is incredibly easy for an employer to find them.
Ok…so that angry, hate and obscenity filled rant over Firefly getting cancelled came back to haunt you. Now what? If you find that some less-than-stellar things appear in the search results, you will want to set about trying to remove them, if you can. Log-in to the websites that they appear on and make the profiles private, delete the offending posts, remove the offending pictures. If you can’t remember your log in information, sometimes an honest and earnest email can be sent to the webmaster or help desk of the webpage to have the offending information removed. Explain to them that you are in the process of a job search and this offending information is appearing in search results and do your best to get it removed. They may comply but they may not, so be prepared for that.
Now, while this is not a 100% safeguard that they won’t still be stored on the net (often times a cached or old version of the offending info will be stored for a time) they make the information a lot harder to find by savvy web-searching hiring managers. Google and other search engines periodically will refresh these stored caches and your internet offenses will become more and more buried as they are replaced with the new, cleaned-up versions.
The next thing that you should do is make sure all of your non-professional (usually Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, for example) social networking profiles are locked down in private mode. It is a fact that we all (well, most of us) have lives outside of work. It is also a fact that merging business with pleasure or personal with professional is seldom a smart idea. For this very reason, it is imperative to keep the two worlds separate. And while you think the universe may need pictures of every meal that you eat and information about every cause that you support, you never know what is going to offend someone. And the last person you would want to offend is a potential (or current) employer. Another plus to keeping your information private is it becomes a lot harder for your personal business to wind up on those pesky search results and webpage caches. There has been so much controversy, in fact, in the role that social networking sites play in the ability for people to obtain employment, Facebook has had to address issues with employers requiring (forcing) employees and potential employees to hand over their Facebook log ins (which is a whole other issue all together).
Social media and networking is here to stay. The best advice is to be smart, responsible and make good decisions when you use it and do your best to keep anything that is controversial or questionable out of the public eye. While it might be fun to share those crazy club photos, is the world going to be any less awesome if you didn’t post it? Probably not. Bottom line? Think before you click (like).