HR to Applicants: We’re Looking at You Online
It’s not just political candidates who are being thoroughly researched these days. At a conference a couple of weeks ago, I sat next to a senior executive at one of the few remaining, solvent investment houses and the conversation drifted to social media.
Somehow, we got on the topic of hiring. She flat out stated: “When I get my list of final candidate when hiring, the FIRST thing I do is Google them. And then I look up their profiles on Facebook.”
And this is not at all unusual.
I have said for years that Google’s largest step was not their IPO, but when their company name went from a noun to a verb. Like Xerox did a few years ago. But Google has indeed become part of our lives, our work, and an important tool for HR people.
Think about the hiring process. I was an executive in the employment industry (beginning in the pre-Internet days) before we could Google someone, but I can promise you that, especially in a down economy, the front-line person whose job it is to go through a bazillion resumes is to carry out a search for the negative. To get through the pile, you usually start by eliminating people you don’t want so you can get to the people you do want.
As an applicant, your exercise is to put your best foot forward and make yourself look like you walk on water. It’s a bit of a dance, but the rise of search engines and social media tools have changed the employment dynamic. As you are pressing your suit and combing your hair, that HR person is likely doing an extensive online search on you. So it’s important to think about the following:
- What have I written out there (blogs, comments on other people’s sites) that I would not want someone to see?
- What, if anything has been written or posted (like um…photographs) that I would not want someone to see? And speaking of pictures, is there a Flick account out there that needs some editing?
- Is my Facebook profile public?
- Is my Twitter account readily identifiable?
- What have I bookmarked on del.icio.us?
I could go on an on with other social media tools, but you get the picture. Most employers are, by nature, cautious. It used to be that they would get a chance to find out about you by asking tough questions during the interview. Now, if you do not have good answers to the above, they may well already have some of the answers.
I am by no means saying that people should not be active on social media sites. Just remember that what you write, the pictures you pose in, and the seemingly flippant comments you might make on someone else’s site are already in your employment profile.