I have a colleague who is a conservative living in primarily liberal Massachusetts (yes, Scott Brown’s election didn’t change that fact). Like many professionals in this grueling economy, he’s currently between jobs. He’s networking, polishing his resume, and interviewing for what’s next for him. Recently, however, curious about his online profile, he “Googled” himself.
A lot of what he found, he expected. But his search also uncovered a few political debates he’s engaged in online. He’s already experienced what he calls “intolerance” for Republicans at many work places in Massachusetts and suddenly he feared that his political views – so contrary to many people in Massachusetts – could be a liability in the job seeking process. He wondered if HR professionals and recruiters were doing similar searches and making judgments about him.
He asked me:
“Could I challenge you to give some thought to the issue I raised here — that is, whether social media should raise a yellow flag on the honest expression of political views, just as participants should be cautious about posting spring break pictures?”
Unfortunately, the answer is not going to make my friend happy. A recent study commissioned by Microsoft surveyed more than 1,200 HR people. The study found that 70 percent of them had rejected applicants because of information that they had discovered about the applicant online.
“Recruiters said they search for information about candidates through search engines, on social networking sites, personal Web sites and blogs, gaming sites, online classified sites and through professional background checkers,” the Washington Post blog Tech Post said of the study. “Those surveyed said they almost all go online to research candidates to hire and think they are justified in doing so. Conversely, only 7 percent of consumers think recruiters check out potential candidates online in considering hiring decisions.
What are the HR people looking for?
Information about lifestyle and inappropriate posts and photographs. So those photographs of you and buddies doing body shots in Mexico that you posted on Flickr? They could come back to haunt you. And, yes, political debates – even honest and rationale ones – can get you into hot water with recruiters.
There’s no doubt that the biggest causality of the web has been privacy.
So should we all stop posting our opinions online? Should we delete our Facebook and Twitter profiles? Of course not. But everyone needs to monitor themselves and think twice before hitting submit. I’ll republish here the five guidelines that I try to live by online (with varying degrees of success):
- Be polite (even when you disagree with people. Debate is much better than arguments)
- Be transparent (if you’ve got skin in the game – tell people you do. Honesty is always best)
- Admit your mistakes (you’re going screw up. We all do. Admit it and apologize if necessary. Then move on)
- Be discrete (don’t talk in public about anything you don’t want public)
- Be trustworthy (treat other people like you want to be treated. Think about others before you post)
And always remember – social media gives the illusion of intimacy and privacy – but you are being watched.
What do you think? Do you worry about your own online profiles? Do you self-edit yourself?