Employers may perform an online scan before interviewing candidates, so online reputation is crucial. It may make or break an opportunity. What both employers and candidates need to keep in mind in the digital age…
I first began working in 1985. I took a job as a cashier at a local family-style restaurant. Back then, we were a fairly low tech society compared to now. For example, I had no cell phone with text messaging to distract myself with while I stood idle at the register between rushes of people. Instead, I’d reconcile my register or scrub down the counter.
I also had no camera in my cell phone with which to photograph myself or my coworkers at work, nor did I have an online profile to which I could post that photo and some pithy commentary about how many times I’d had to dodge the pervy manager’s grabby hands.
It was more than a decade past that before I joined some rudimentary online sites and began building an online profile and presence. By then I’d worked my way up from plebe to manager level in my career. By then I was in charge of hiring people.
However, I still parsed paper resumes sent by snail mail, and relied exclusively on face-to-face interviews and written recommendations. It still wasn’t par for the course to scan the Internet to vet a potential employee.
Now, however, more than a decade past that, it is standard procedure to Google a job applicant and check their online reputation. Initially, I pondered whether that was any kind of an invasion of privacy, even if, by definition, posting something to the Internet conveys a total and utter lack of expectation of any kind of privacy.
I did definitely wonder whether it was any kind of discrimination to disqualify a job applicant based on something you found about that person and their reputation online.
It’s one thing to assume a person has a private life, political and religious views, friends, family and so forth — but what does it mean to a potential employer to see it all on display, online?
It may be that I’m old school (or just older) but my online reputation is fairly tame. A potential employer or client scanning my Facebook page will see a woman who is married with children, interested in both improving public education and staying on top of current health care for women news, dedicated to local politics and voting, focused on improving my business skills, in touch with friends, and active in some groups oriented around personal and business development.
The same sort of stuff they’d find out about me near the coffeemaker in the breakroom or in idle chit chat during a meeting to break the ice.
In short, potential colleagues won’t find out anything I mind them knowing, and frankly, if any of that makes me a bad fit for the job, I’d rather both of us know upfront. With time and experience comes wisdom, and I’ve learned it’s so much better to be frank and honest about who you are and what your needs and job demands are instead of trying to conform to be chosen.
With honestly comes a better fit and more success and satisfaction.
It does mean I censor some elements I share online, but those are by virtue of my own personal privacy standards. It means using good judgment before I share something through social media. What’s my standard of measure?
My own personal brand. Whether it’s personally or professionally, I want others to view me as a thoughtful, considerate, mature, intelligent, accomplished, interesting person who cares deeply about her family and doing good in the world.
Before I post, I ask whether what I want to put up — put out — there adds to this idea of myself. If it does, then up it goes.
That’s why I haven’t hidden my profile, used a pseudonym, or otherwise attempted to hide or disguise myself. I feel proud not just of what but also of who I put out through social media.
But a point for employers to ponder is that Googling flows both ways: employees and employers. Potential employees — possibly your top candidates — may very well scan your online presence and hat’s said about you online, both by current and past workers. Have you built a solid and superb online reputation as a business and employer?
Just as potential employers may want to ask about certain things they discover in an online search, they need to be prepared to address the same from candidates.
Online research can be incredibly useful to check out employment opportunities, however, both potential employees and employers need to maintain perspective about what they find online, have an honest discourse about it, and discuss each’s philosophies of boundaries. An employer may be concerned about a candidate’s personal life, but will that truly affect job performance? Is it something that could be considered discriminatory, such as eliminating a candidate due to a health condition?
These are crucial questions for an employer to ask.
What potential employees and employers find online can actually be a help to one another in figuring out what to ask and how to answer. It can be a better starting point than a simple resume that lists jobs and accomplishments. It provides an insight into the personality of the person. It can help each gauge more deeply how their own elements will match up against the job and workplace.