Are you paying attention to your online reputation? Employers are.

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Social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) and other user-generated-content sites (think of picture and video sharing sites) are not new. They certainly came of age in the past decade, but in Internet Land, a few years are equal to a few decades. Therefore, you’re not surprised that employers are looking online to see what information you’ve posted: networking profiles, blogs, posts on online forums, pictures and videos.

You might have heard of “digital dirt” in the job hunt, and this information is precisely what that term refers to. That picture of you drinking a little too much champagne  on New Year’s Eve 2008? Yeah, that’s digital dirt.

Once upon a time employers used references to assess your ability to fit into their organizations. Because you’re on your best behavior during an interview, they had to hope you possessed the character and personality necessary for the job. Thanks to efficient search engines (and job seekers with lax privacy settings), employers can unearth a wealth of information about you. Hopefully this fact isn’t news to you. After all, we’ve warned you about this on the Work Buzz plenty of times. But if you are surprised, prepare yourself for what follows:

In the Microsoft survey “Online Reputation in a Connected World,” employers explained where they look for job seeker information during the hiring process. The answer: everywhere. The survey, which came to my attention via Lifehacker, puts to rest any doubts you might have had about the importance of your online image.

The survey finds that only 7 percent of U.S. consumers (aka job seekers) believe available online information about themselves affected their job search. Yet, 70 percent of recruiters and HR professionals have rejected a candidate for information they found online. These research efforts aren’t just the work of overeager hiring managers with too much free time. In the U.S., 75 percent of surveyed recruiters and professionals say their organizations have formal policies that require them to do online digging. Based on those figures, the concern seems to have changed from whether or not your online reputation will affect your job hunt to how it will affect your job hunt.

The survey goes on to discuss some other important factors you might not have considered:

  • 90 percent of HR professionals and recruiters are concerned about the accuracy of the information they find online and they attempt to verify it before making a final decision. (In other words, you better hope anyone who shares your name isn’t a liability.)
  • 86 percent of recruiters and HR professionals say that a positive online image can benefit the candidate.
  • 48 percent of consumers think they have complete responsibility for their online reputation, and 46 percent think the responsibility is shared between the site and themselves. Yet, 62 percent of HR professionals and recruiters view the responsibility as entirely the job seekers’.

I strongly encourage you to read the full study to get a glimpse of what hiring managers, recruiters and their organizations are thinking. On a job search, the more information you have about potential employers, the better you can prepare yourself. Handling your online image doesn’t have to be an impossible task, but it does take attention and time. Entering your own name in a search engine is a good first step in discovering what your online image is. Once you see what information is out there—whether your own or that of someone else with the same name—you’ll find yourself thinking twice about your digital footprint.

How much time do you spend monitoring your online information? Have you had your social networking profile or personal blog come up in a job interview?

67 Comments
    • Fair? Sometimes no. But true? 100% yes. The thing to keep in mind is, policy or not, no recruiter has to provide a reason that they didn’t considder you, besides having more qualified candidates who were a better fit. End of story. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the system, or if the premis offends you, it is simply true. You will never have the opportunity to argue your case as most likely, you won’t even know what they saw where or why they said no. Everything you put out there can (and will) be used against you, so always always always keep it professional. Excellent article and excellent advice!

  1. Pingback: Dunhill Staffing Systems of Charleston’s recruiting blog » Blog Archive » Your online reputation

  2. Pingback: Employers Look at Your Online Identity « Career Calling

  3. “You better hope anyone who shares your name isn’t a liabilty.” Umm, what exactly is one supposed to do about that? Hope? Even the “do not fly” list allows ways to get off the list if you only share a name with someone on it.

    I would think that recruiters and HR would have the interests of their clients and companies not to pay attention to irrelevant writings.

    But just like there are good, bad, and indifferent job candidates, there are good, bad and indifferent job recruiters and HR personnel.

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  7. What started as catching up with old friends and a watercooler joke or two has now evolved to affect our character and reputation beyond our intentions. We are reminded that we are not chumming around the ole’ water cooler here on the public on-line forums. Even if you have been your appropriate self, the masters of hacking can write on your behalf all sorts of things, taking your identity to a new level of identity theft. Will the real “Jan Doe” stand….

  8. Everyone talks junk online. That’s what the internet is for. For people to vent and talk shit and act stupid. Ahmed.

  9. Can someone please tell me how these HR people gain access to FB, My Space pages when they are private? Maybe I’m just a bit computer/social media illiterate but I don’t get this. If my writing on my FB is private-for friends only – how do they gain access? This, to me, is a total invasion of privacy and infuriates me!

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  41. Yes, I pay attention to my online reputation, it’s very important for me, because I buy a lot of stuff from the Internet! Also, when I buy something I look up for their online reputation, because I want to be sure that everything would be alright! Of course, it’s an important thing if you want to be hire, as well.

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