Social media is great for keeping in touch with friends, getting involved with good causes and sharing videos of singing cats.
Where it’s not on your side is when a prospective employer can use it to view pictures of you drunk in a ditch, or airing some of your more bizarre beliefs.
The media is full of examples of people being turned down for interview or being fired from a job after examples of their online conduct came to light.
A case in point is Paris Brown, Kent Police’s youth tsar, who resigned from her £15,000 a year post over allegedly offensive Twitter posts she had made years earlier. While the Police commissioner said it “would have been impossible to find someone who had not made a foolish comment on social media”, it highlights the perils of tweeting before you think.
Trending with the mickey-taking #askJamesArthur hashtag probably wasn’t what X-Factor winner James Arthur had in mind when he started his road to Twitter meltdown. We all have to take responsibility for what appears on our social media profiles, so claiming you were mysteriously hacked or someone else was using your phone just won’t wash, James.
Stars like Lily Allen may play out their lives on Twitter, but the oxygen of publicity is what feeds their careers. For your average person, a squeaky clean online life can only help your job prospects.
So who’s looking at you, kid? Depending on whose survey you believe, around 91% of recruiters turn to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get a more personal view of a candidate, and a survey of 300 employers showed that 60% of them had rejected a candidate after what they had seen about them on a social networking site.
Here at Concept Personnel we use a range of platforms for our research into candidates registering or applying for jobs. So do many employers, in fact in the US there is a trend for employers to ask candidates to supply not only their profile details but their passwords too, which opens up a whole new debate about online privacy and interpretation of recruitment laws about what is private and what is public.
The world is a small place these days and whether you live in Manchester or Mongolia, you need to clean up your online act before you start job-hunting or reinforcing your professional reputation to attract more work.
Managing your social media reputation is not difficult. It’s the online version of how you would tailor your language and content when you are talking to your granny rather than your mates.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve never Googled your own name, and give it a go. When your Facebook public profile pops up a potential employer (and anyone else who cares to look) can see your life laid bare.
Viewers only have your CV and some social media pages to go on. They have never met you, your friends or your family so they are making judgements on your attitude, your work ethic, what you’ll be like to sit next to, what impression you’re going to give their clients and the other people in the organisation, and how easy you will be to manage. If you are undecided about which posts to remove, put yourself in an employer’s shoes and ask yourself how they might interpret posts of you whinging about colleagues or boasting how you’ve fiddled your expenses.
Facebook gets a slating for constantly changing its privacy settings but it’s a business, not your mother, so it’s your own responsibility to regularly review your account settings to make sure information you want to be kept private can only been seen by your chosen viewers. And when you are having a clean up don’t forget to untag yourself in any inappropriate photos too.
If you don’t want to trawl through years of your life cleaning up your act there are various software tools on the market that can do it for you. For instance www.persona-co.com will constantly scan your profiles for content that you would rather an employer didn’t see, or that doesn’t reflect the person you are now. Or check out Facewash, an app that cleans your Facebook profile of incriminating content, allowing you to search your profile with a set of offensive or distasteful terms you want to remove, whether they were in your content, your comments or your ‘likes’.
Sadly, even when you delete a post, if it’s been retweeted, copied, quoted or commented on then it’s probably still out there somewhere but it’s never too late to start guarding your online reputation.
One of the easiest ways to do it is post good content so eventually the bad stuff will be harder to find. We’re not suggesting you dump loads of fluffy content online as that will just look suspect, but instead try a combination of editing your existing profiles, blogging and commenting so that newer content is more frequent and better quality than your previous content.
For younger job-seekers Facebook and the like have always been part of their lives, hence everything is online for all to see. That’s where the older generation has the advantage – for anyone born in the 70s and onwards, most of the really stupid stuff we did was before the internet. And thank goodness for that.
If you’ve never had a glass of something and picked up your phone to post something unwise, we’re really pleased for you. For the rest of us, it’s as well to remember that while social networks can be a great tool for job seekers, they need to be used carefully if you want to make a great impression.