Social networks are websites like Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter which have become incredibly popular among teens and adults from every walk of life. These sites offer a convenient way of catching up with friends, staying in touch with family, and sharing the news in your life with others. From an employer’s standpoint, first impressions are being formed long before the interview process begins.
A 2007 survey conducted by ExecuNet, the leading executive job search and recruiting network found that 77% of potential employers use search engines to learn more about candidates for jobs. Of those who use sites such as Google and Yahoo! to check the background of job seekers, 35% have eliminated a candidate from consideration based on the information uncovered online.
A separate survey, also conducted by ExecuNet reveals that while 82% of job candidates expect companies and recruiters to enter their name into a search engine during the course of their next job search, an overwhelming 33% of the job seekers have never actually conducted a search of their own name to determine what information about their personal or professional lives exists online.
What does this mean for job seekers and those wanting to advance in their career? It means that companies and corporations are taking a traditional background check a step further and it is becoming a trend for employers to go beyond Google and Yahoo and check social networking sites before hiring an employee. The primary reasons employers use for extending the background investigation to include social networking sites was to scan for illegal activity, provocative images, poor communications skills, or any sharing of potentially confidential information from a previous employer.
Since you may never know who may be scanning your profile, pictures, or gathering other data from your blog, you do need to follow some guidelines so that your next job isn’t lost due to carelessness.
Search for yourself online. Enter your own name into search engines periodically to stay informed on what personal and professional information exists online. Now would be a great time to set up a Google Alert and be e-mailed each time your name shows up in the top of Google’s indexed sites or in the news. You may be surprised by what you and your potential employers can see about you.
While searching social networking sites employers are often ready to take notice of any tobacco, alcohol, or drug use by the recent job candidate. Keep this in mind when choosing a screen name or online ID.
Specifically in connection with both current employment and your future employment, you must be very careful what you post in social networks. Lamenting about your boss, supervisors, co-workers or a former job in your online blog is never a good idea and can put you in hot water.
Before putting those incredibly amusing photos and videos online, think about who may see them, link to them, download them, and pass them around. The pictures of you passed out drunk on your neighbor’s front lawn or the ones showing you scantily dressed and posing provocatively at a bar are likely to be viewed as a reflection of your character and integrity.
Be 100% honest when creating a resume. If the academic achievements, company information, and job titles on your resume don’t match with what an employer finds online, your CV may just end up in the filing cabinet collecting dust.
You obviously should be blogging and visiting social networking sites when you’re at home and not at work but even if you are not blogging on your employer’s time, be aware of any policies regarding what if any information you can reveal about the your employer or former employer. Be sensitive to privacy issues when talking about your boss or co-workers unless you have their permission. The best rule of thumb, when considering what topics are safe to blog about, the best advice is when in doubt, don’t post it.
One of the entertaining elements included in the networking sites is that you can connect with other people who share your same hobbies and interests as well as your wacky sense of humour. Thus groups like, “How Stoned Are You?” or “Let me be your Sugar Daddy” are born. The group may seem completely harmless to you but to a human resources manager in search of a mature and dependable candidate, it leaves a less than desirable impression.
Someone once said, “You are known by the company you keep” If you are the type to add anyone who comes along to your ever growing list of friends, it may come back to haunt you. If it is implied that you are associating with less than desirable characters, a potential employer may just pass you up and choose another candidate.
Unfortunately, the Internet doesn’t forgive and forget. While you can easily delete life’s most embarrassing moments online, it doesn’t always go away permanently. There are numerous sites and search engines that keep a cache of web sites and pages that can be archived for many years. It may be impossible to entirely clean up the virtual “footprint” you’ve left in Cyberspace.
How social networking sites affect the candidate screening process is only in the beginning stages of being explored but the practice is likely to increase in the future. It is imperative that you use your online tools wisely. Your livelihood may depend on it.