Can Social Media Sink your Career?

 (From NYT 7/25/11) Joe Bontke, outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s office in Houston, said that he regularly reminds employers and human resource managers about the risks of violating federal antidiscrimination employment rules and laws by using online research in hiring decisions.

“Things that you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you can’t research,” he said, which includes the gamut of information covering a person’s age, gender, religion, disability, national origin and race.

That said, he added that 75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates. And 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online, he said.

So – what does that mean for you?  As you do other  end of the year cleaning and organizing, why not pay attention to your online footprint as well?  If your Facebook page seems a little too informal and social, create another profile for professional use.  Better yet, redirect your professional and job search contacts to your LinkedIn profile.  For tips on making it more effective, see this post

You can never really eliminate any unflattering photos or posts; everything lives on forever on the world-wide web.  But you can make sure that you’ve deleted unprofessional or unflattering photos or posts and unfriended people whose less-than-professional posts may show up in your news feed.  Get rid of pages you “like” that don’t reflect your best self, and stop “liking” snarky posts from your friends.  Everyone is connected to everyone on social networks, and you can never control who sees your activity.

A worker was at home recovering from surgery; she’d requested several days off because she wasn’t quite able to return to work.  Her daughter posted about a social event she (the mom) attended and her manager saw the post.  No harm done this time, but why take the chance?

Do a Google search on your name and see  what you find.   Are there any public record or news notices (like arrests, lawsuits or bankruptcies) for people with names similar to yours?  That may be what a recruiter sees first in a search for you.  You can’t control it, but you should be aware of it. 

Social networking is here to stay, and it can be a valuable tool in your job search.  But like most effective tools, it can have sharp edges and require training before use.

1 thought on “Can Social Media Sink your Career?

  1. Which is why we will end up with courts clogged with lawsuits, already need legislation at the Federal, State, County, and local level, etc. Why? Because BIG BUSINESS and others refuse to stick to traditional means of reviewing applicants, knowing full well they make exceptions for people’s lives at the elite level, even when negative aspects that should prevent a person from being hired, in certain positions, is public knowledge. Plus most CEOs and other elite people can, and often do, hire PR people to create their Social Network ID, but rarely engage in personal public social contexts. (I concede cellphones and other devices are changing some of this.)

    Another thing, Social Networks, which I have refused to join at this time, started well before companies began to do online research and before most people understood how readily available their personal information would be. MOST PEOPLE still are not aware that online companies you sign-up with, who claim your account information is private, if they go bankrupt, that information is considered an ASSET, which can be sold. I am not sure if the courts place restrictions on access to such data, but I do know your e-mail address will be for sale. (Remember the Tech Bubble burst!)

    Shortly before applying for one position I learned that companies actively request you list Social Networks you belong too, and if you list none, because you belong to no Social Network, it is automatic for them to assume you have something to hide, therefore they eliminate you from consideration for their open position. (Condemned by a faulty assumption.) Don’t know how prevelant this is but the source was a reputable news source. Companies also hire data mining companies to research job prospects. They make their money by being able to find out anything you have ever done online, like this comment as an easy and obvious example, but other stuff long forgotten by most people. These companies decisions literally hold your employment future in their hands by deciding what to share with your prospective employer and what not to share.

    Most of what you suggest in your post, if you step back to look at your words objectively, fly in the face of Constitutional guarantees to the right to privacy, free speech, and probably the right to feel secure in your home. (Although the internet is a quasi-public place, it is something of a virtual world, where one tends to feel ones usual rights are available or you wouldn’t be there!) Today there is literally the ability to destroy an average person’s life through innuendo, based on things the person has said, done, or posted online. That people work 40 hours a week, then must spend much of the rest of their waking hours finding ways to protect their lives in the future from any and everything they may do or have done online, strikes at manipulation and control of the individual. You have in part promoted this with your post. It’s worth thinking about!

    Unemployed Psychologists probably understand this. Okay, I must go now. Feeling a little paranoid. Must get my thoughts under control. Shadows from George Orwell’s world are looking over my shoulder and I’m not sure they can be trusted. 🙂


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