Are you a college student with a MySpace or Facebook page? Are you an adult with a blog? Do you Twitter? If so you need to understand how a hiring manager could view your online brand based upon the information you post on the Internet. It has become commonplace for recruiters and HR professionals alike to Google the names of individuals they plan to interview. Also many companies (example: Big Four Accounting/Consulting firms) have set up pages on Facebook or MySpace for recruiting purposes – that means they can invite you to be a “friend” and gain access to your pages. With this in mind it makes sense to err on the side of conservatism when posting pictures, blog posts, and comments on the Internet.
Vault.com conducted a Social Networking Web Site Survey which revealed that 44% of employers surveyed make it a practice to look up potential employees on social networking sites. 82% of those employers say they would think twice about hiring candidates who posted information that could be perceived as negative on their on-line profiles. And it doesn’t stop with potential employees: 39% of employers have searched the online profiles of current employees.
How do smart professionals manage their online brands? Here are a few tips:
1. Before posting a photo or a comment ask yourself, “Would I show this to my grandmother?” If the answer is no then you shouldn’t post it. Period.
2. Ask yourself if the information you are about to post could be hurtful or embarrassing to anyone else. If you post photos of your friends in compromising or embarrassing situations you don’t make yourself or your friends look good. Don’t post stories or gossip that could be misinterpreted or be hurtful to anyone either.
3. Remember that there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet. You post it and its public – there are no secrets on the Internet. Anyone who reads or sees what you have posted can cut it and paste it elsewhere. Hackers can get access to just about anything. So why take a chance? If you don’t want your employer or potential employers to know that you like to party in your spare time or see racy photos then don’t post them anywhere. Ever.
4. If you are a student you need to research employers at which you plan to interview to find out how conservative they are and make sure that your Internet posts are in-line with their expectations. When I worked for Deloitte I learned that the Big 4 are VERY conservative. Students who post photos of themselves at parties drinking beer should understand that some Big 4 recruiters might interpret those photos negatively. Err on the side of caution and don’t post anything that any reasonable person could misinterpret.
5. Keep your Facebook Wall clean and sanitize the comments that your friends leave on your MySpace page. I know a college student, a very popular young man, who has about 400 friends on Facebook – about half of them are beautiful young women. Many of these young women write suggestive or, in some cases, downright filthy things on his facebook Wall. He has been very wise to delete any of these comments as quickly as he can because he is interning with a very conservative bank this summer. If his summer employer were to see his Wall, I am sure they wouldn’t be too impressed with some of the comments his female admirers have to say even though he can’t control what others write. He can, and does, control what stays on his page though.
6.Think before you Twitter. Twitter, as you may know, is a real-time online service which allows you to post 140 character messages that anyone who wants to “follow you” can see. Keep it professional and think about what your Twitter messages say about you. If you are interviewing with a competitor don’t mention that on Twitter…your current employer could be following you. Don’t Twitter about things that are risqué or disturbing – remember that ANYONE can see your Twitter posts.
Keep your online profile but remember that the Internet makes each of us a unique brand. Manage your brand carefully by monitoring the information available about you on the Internet and making sure that whatever you post is squeaky clean.