Could your social media profile hurt your job search?

Successful Job Searching with a Criminal Record

One of the questions I get asked is: Does HR or recruiting really looks at a person’s social media presence when making hiring decisions?

While it may seem invasive or unfair that one may be judged by their online presence, what you put online is fair game even if it’s on your “private page” and  since everything lives forever on the internet, it does lead recruiters into some interesting waters. 

Let me back up a step and explain how recruiters find job seekers.  There are actually two kinds of job applicants, those that saw the job posted somewhere and applied and those who were contacted by a recruiter after being found online.  We call this second type “sourced candidates.” A well-trained recruiter uses deep research, social engineering, and search tools to find people who fit the criteria for the job we are filling.  

For example, right now my team is working with a company in Silicon Valley that has two confidential searches.  Since they are confidential, we can’t post them for people to apply so we have to use the internet to find the right person. Thankfully, there are a lot of breadcrumbs online that help us find our target.  

Our searches start on LinkedIn where we are looking for a mix of skills and experience in the right geographic area which usually consists of basic info that most people have put on their profile.  If we can’t find what we are looking for at this stage, we move to the larger internet pool and use some crazy complex search strings coded into Boolean logic to locate people online who have personal websites, blogs, online portfolios, and publications.  Without fail, our search strings also turn up a person’s entire social footprint – yes, even if you think it’s all “private.” We can see your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc presence and if we cared to actually go into the recreational sites you use instead of staying with the professional sites there is a lot we can learn about you as a person that perhaps you don’t want us to know. 

Although I don’t intend to let a person’s online presence influence my hiring decision, even though sometimes it’s hard to avoid it.  Companies today are very focused on hiring people that fit into the company culture. A couple of years ago, we had a client that was making a mobile app to track fish and game. They specifically asked for someone who was outdoorsy, preferably a hunter since that would fit their corporate culture and the person would have insider knowledge of how the app could be used.  After finding people on LinkedIn with the technical skills, we cross checked them with their Facebook profiles to find people with pictures of them doing outdoorsy stuff. Our eventual hire ended up being a guy with a profile picture showing him fishing. In this case, our ability to dig into his social medial profiles was a good thing.  

The flip side of this is that I have had to avoid candidates whose social media profiles raised questions.  I’m not talking about pics of a kegger during college (we don’t really care about your party pics). But things like online rants against a past employer where there was a threatening statement made against a former boss do give the HR team pause when considering if that person is a risk.  

How do you make sure that what you put out there will never hurt you?  It starts with being a good digital citizen from the very first day you put yourself online.  And parents, your child’s future academic and professional career can be impacted as well from the very first day you let them online so make sure to have this conversation with them also. 

Here are some things to always keep in mind when you are online: 

  1. Always read the terms and conditions (T & C) when signing up for any mobile app, Facebook game, etc before using the app.  I read one the other day that allowed for the app to track every other site you went to including which links you even just hovered over.  I did not accept or load that app since what it wanted to do was well beyond the scope of what that app was about. If you haven’t seen the Netflix documentary about Cambridge Analytica, I recommend watching it. 
  2. Remember the “Jury Rule” – never put anything online that you don’t want to have to sit in front of a jury and explain.  
  3. The age of entry for a person to be able to create an online profile on most sites is 13.  Before parents let their child get online there should be a conversation about safe internet use that includes a discussion about the reality that nothing is ever private online and nothing is ever truly deleted.  There are many headlines about colleges rescinding offers after seeing something that had been posted online years earlier – just don’t do it.  
  4. When posting or chatting on a social site, remember that the written words lack tone, inflection, and body language to help the reader decipher “intent.”  It’s all too easy to misunderstand things posted online.  
  5. Make sure to use a strong password and change it often and don’t use the same password on all the sites.  It’s very easy for a smart hacker to use social engineering to figure out your password and hijack your account.  If your password is anything to do with family names, hobbies, cities you’ve lived in, or any other info available on your Facebook page, I promise a good hacker can crack it easily.  

Polaris Talent, job search, employment, social mediaAs we move into a predominantly digital society, it is becoming crucially important to understand your online impact. What you say and what you put out there is forever. Recruiters are not hackers trying to invade your privacy; anybody can run a search and find too much information. It is important to understand how the internet and searching works these days to devour your profile and return information. Data has surpassed oil in its value. Assuming this trend continues, be smart and vigilant about your usage, privacy settings, and the kind of content you are choosing to publish forever.

While reading this post, if you found yourself thinking “Gee, I could really use help finding the perfect candidate who meets my company’s needs and culture,” look no further than Polaris Talent. Contact us today. 


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