I recently came across a Harris Interactive study for Career Builder, published in August 2009, that addressed the notion of employers using online social networks to check out job applicants before making offers to candidates.
Gotta admit, I’m not terribly surprised.
In this day and age, online profiles are often a strong representation of someone’s personality, style, and interaction with others. If I was looking to fill a position, you can rest assured that I’d want to learn as much as legally/ethically possible about them… And that includes what information they publish to the world at large in open-access social networking profiles.
If I’m looking at a job candidate, and I see that their publicly-available profile demonstrates personality and behaviors that don’t likely fit with what I need in a candidate, that’s crucial information. For example, the Harris study found employers refusing to make job offers because of reasons like this:
Don’t get me wrong… My Facebook profile has had references to drugs, politics, religion, etc. from time to time. But my profile is friends-only, meaning if you’re not on my list of people that I’ve accepted as a Facebook “friend” then you can’t see details on my page. And frankly, I think anyone with questionable content on their page should do the same, if they’re concerned about others finding out things they would’ve rather kept private.
Granted, I have some colleagues (including past and present teammates) on my Facebook friends list, and they can easily see the material I post on my page… But I’m aware of that risk, and I think there’s a specific benefit that outweighs that risk: being authentic and having relationships (personal and professional) based on a true understanding of one another.
Still, I’m careful… I try not to post anything unflattering about my employer, my boss, or my team (outside of sometimes talking about a long day of work, etc.) I try to live by the rule that if I wouldn’t want my parents or my boss seeing it, I shouldn’t publish it on the Internet.
Is that so hard?