Today it seems like everybody has an online account. We all seem to be glued to laptops and mobile phones and enjoy 24/7 access to the internet, so it’s no wonder that one of the quickest ways for an employer to check out a new recruit is by looking online. But is this necessarily a bad thing?
Out of curiosity and for the purposes of this blog I googled my name. Being quite unique, surprisingly all I found were the typical links to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, some pictures from said websites of me and old work that I did at college and university. Fortunately nothing too embarrassing! Although, how an award video got onto an American site called Humorous Clips I don’t know. It’s not like I fell over or anything!
Some people aren’t as careful with their online activities, though. It’s surprising how many people aren’t aware that what they do on the internet, whether it’s via social networking sites or just commenting on web pages, can be seen and accessed by anyone – that’s if they know what they’re looking for. A standard Google search can bring up any number of websites that allow anyone to see what you did last Thursday night, or that picture from five years ago when you stayed in the pub for 12 hours! Even liking groups, such as on Facebook, can come up and bite you several years later when you’ve forgotten all about it.
So how can you stop it from happening?
Well, for starters, monitor what you put on the internet. Consider just what is the point of what you’re putting on there before clicking send. Ask yourself, is it offensive? Can it make me look bad to future employers and clients? Am I being inappropriate? There are some dead no-no’s that are a complete no-go area, unless you don’t want that job that you might be applying for in the future.
1. Definitely don’t bad mouth your employer online. Not only might they see it and possibly give you a disciplinary (or worse!), but future employers will see this as a threat to their own business and undoubtedly cross you off their interview list.
2. Don’t put any pictures that, while they may have been fun and funny at the time, portray you in a bad light, such as drunken photos of you passed out on the pavement or intimate pictures with you and an ex ex ex partner. Somehow it might not reflect the responsible, professional attitude you’re hoping to sell to your future employer.
3. Don’t like inappropriate groups on facebook. They hook you in with their funny posts about talking cats and babies doing weird and wonderful things, but from an employer’s point of view, they might be a little bit pointless. Certainly don’t like any groups that are rude, offensive or just generally mean.
4. Don’t ignore any posts or pictures that friends have uploaded of you. You might have done everything to make sure your online profile is selling you as a marvellous, top employee but then your friend has posted a disturbing post about getting “hammered” or a suggestible photo that might just harm that reputation. If anything, get your friends to ask your permission first; that way you don’t have the worry of checking or harassing them to take said posts down. Although, do keep checking just to be sure!
What can you do to have a good online presence?
One of the major dos is to check your privacy settings on your personal accounts. It’s amazing how many people allow their profile’s to be seen by anyone. If you’re happy to do that then do, but by just setting it to “friends only” you can seriously reduce the amount of stuff that leaks onto search engines which employers will use to look you up. It also helps you to keep your personal life private and the ex that was obsessed with you to stop checking your account every hour!
Do search your own name – that way, you can see what a possible employer will see and can judge if any more editing of your online profile needs to be done.
Do remove any material that you think can be used as a bad point against you; even if you’re not sure, take it off regardless. It might take you a good few hours to get through all those posts and tweets from years ago, but surely it would be worth it to get that job you’ve been waiting for?
The fact that employers check out potential employees online doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. See it as an advantage. You get an allotted time for an interview to help sell yourself, but if you’re anything like me then you get anxious and mess up a few times and then the interviewers don’t get a chance to see the real you.
Instead, use your online profile to help sell yourself more. Create a blog, get Twitter and reflect your personality and interest in the industry that you’re going into by linking to news articles, bragging about your achievements and talking about relevant topics. Let the employer or client know that you’re serious about accounting or advertising or whatever it is that you’re hoping to get into. Allow them to see the real you, or rather, the you that they’re wanting to hire.
It might seem like a big headache to forever be questioning what you do online, but it will help in the long-run.