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?