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During a meeting to discuss a job, have you gotten that eerie feeling? The person seems to know A LOT about you. But how? You’ve never mentioned your ex, politics, or that crazy night vacationing in Cancun. Or maybe you can’t get a meeting to save your life. Why are you persona non grata? You’re committing job search sin #5: Considering what you post on social media to be off limits from employers.
You Have No Privacy Online
Sixty percent of organizations check out a candidate’s social media presence. (Another source says 84%.) If you’re looking for an information technology job, the number leaps to 76%. This includes the usual suspects of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. But they may also check out Instagram, Pinterest, and other less obvious places. Whatever turns up on a Google search, prospective employers will see. Almost half of hiring managers have rejected a candidate because of something they found out online.
Among the biggest red flags are:
- Inappropriate pictures. Think about your last deployment. Your significant other may have gotten mad. A hiring manager may reject you out of hand.
- Drinking or drug usage. Civilian employers assume veterans are reliable and mature. Why do you want to present an image that disproves this belief?
- Badmouthing a former employer. Your time in the military may have been less than ideal. Fair enough. Take the good parts and move forward. Bellyaching online shows a potential employer what you’ll do if things don’t work out. Often they won’t take the risk on you.
- Discriminatory comments. Just like in the military, biased remarks don’t fly with civilians. Everyone is entitled to respectful treatment.
- Politics. A dose of modesty goes a long way here. Most companies have a politically diverse workforce. The boss may agree with your perspective. But that doesn’t mean he wants such a divisive subject brought into the workplace. Confine your opinions to close friends. By the way, Facebook friends don’t fit this definition.
- Bad communication skills. Spelling, syntax, and grammar count, online and when speaking. Always communicate your thoughts well. Scrub your social media as thoroughly as your resume.
You won’t know who will review your online presence. Nor will you know when. But you can be sure a majority of employers will scrutinize your social media profiles to find out who you are.
Control the Image You Project
Since you’ll be checked out online, you need to present yourself properly:
- Search your name. What comes up when you Google your name with and without your middle initial? I got 30 times as many hits searching “Kevin S. Bemel” as “Kevin Bemel”. And much older information came up in the first search. You may have a common name. Is something someone else did making you look bad?
- Review all your social media profiles. You may think your profiles are private. That doesn’t mean they are. Employers won’t hack your accounts. And you may not have to give them your passwords. Nonetheless, verify that non-friends are restricted from viewing your Facebook and Twitter profiles. But keep in mind, policies for these platforms change all the time. Better to treat them as you would any public site.
- Identify negative information. Whether it’s about you or someone with the same name, you need to determine which hits are negative. Make sure you look beyond the first page or two of results. Most people don’t but that doesn’t mean an enterprising HR person won’t.
- Get rid of what you can, explain the rest. Remove any posts that fit one of the red flag descriptions. If you don’t control the site, contact the webmaster or owner of the site. Make the case for their removing the material. Have verifiable explanations for any derogatory items you cannot delete. It will take time. We all have to pay the piper.
Keep in mind, you’ve only gotten rid of the negative material. I’ll talk about optimizing your online presence to support finding a job in my next post.
You’re responsible for your online image and how it impacts your job search. The information, pictures, and videos you post reveal your character and ability. Even if a friend has published something on your profile, you choose whether it stays or goes. Take control of the image you project to employers. Start now.
What experience have you had with employers checking your social media profiles? Please comment below.