An online survey of over a thousand hiring managers and human resource professionals across a variety of industries and company sizes was conducted by CareerBuilder in 2018.
It found that 70% of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates during the hiring process. It also found that 48% of employers admit to monitoring employees on social media and that a third of employers had fired or reprimanded employees as a result of content they found online.
The reasons employers gave for researching potential or existing employees via social media were:
- Gain information in support of their qualifications for the job (58%)
- Determine if the candidate has a professional online persona (50%)
- See what other people are posting about the candidate (34%)
- Identify any reason not to hire the candidate (22%)
What content is most damaging?
The kind of online content that were most detrimental ranged from provocative or inappropriate photos, posts referring to alcohol or drug use, discriminatory behaviour and criminal activities. Those seemingly harmless photos of you and your mates on a boys’ (or girls’) night out could be affecting your chances of landing your dream job or getting that promotion.
Lying about qualifications, demonstrating poor or unprofessional communication skills, bad-mouthing previous employers or colleagues, and sharing confidential information were also given as reasons for employers to either not hire someone or to take action against an employee.
How do I manage my online identity?
Firstly, it’s important to be aware that many parts of the internet are public and even if you think something is private, it might not always be the case. You should think before you post anything online even if you think it’s ‘just a joke’ or expressing how you feel about something or someone. It’s easy for messages to be misconstrued or taken the wrong way and once something is published online it’s not so easy to take it back especially if it’s been shared by others.
If you consider yourself to be a professional, you need to show it not just through how you present yourself to the world in person but online too. There’s a reason why employers and potential employers review online profiles, to see the reality of a person’s life on a day-to-day basis as it reflects on how they will act on the job and when representing a company or organisation.
Managing your privacy
Most online platforms enable you to adjust your privacy settings so that only your selected audience can view your posts. In Facebook for example, you can set your privacy settings so that only ‘friends’ can see your posts or even create smaller audiences from your friends list for certain posts. When interacting with Facebook Pages and Groups however, if the page or group is ‘public’ then anything you ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on will be visible by all. You can also adjust your privacy settings so that your liked or followed pages aren’t visible to others.
Instagram, YouTube and Twitter also allow you to set your profile to Private so that only those who you have accepted to follow you can see what you post. Keep in mind that those people who you have allowed to view your posts could potentially capture and share your content (via a screen snapshot or snipping tool) with others so nothing is ever really private.
I hope this has helped you understand the importance of managing your social media interactions to protect your professional image. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them – just drop me a line in the comments section below.