I guess I’ve always known that looking online is one way employers find information to screen potential employees, but this article published in the today’s NY Times raises some interesting points.
“75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates. And 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online”. That’s 3 out of 4, and probably some more recruiters that aren’t required to do online research but in some cases do anyways. Nobody is safe?
The article lists “online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity” as some examples of negative information that would discourage an employer from hiring someone. However, do some of these things really justify withdrawing a job offer? Would a woman who takes risque photos of herself necessarily make a bad doctor? Or a man who was photographed smoking a joint with some buddies be unfit to run a company? Clearly, when online searches expose illegal/criminal activity, those would be legitimate grounds for turning someone down, but somehow I feel like that’s usually not the case…
Also, you need to take into consideration the environment of social networking communities. They’re casual and largely unregulated. People post things seeking sympathy, congratulations, complements, all sorts of attention. Online posts may be sarcastic, or bitter, or slightly scandalous – you have to be at least a little controversial to get any attention these days. A Facebook status of “OMG crazy weekend, but it would have been even crazier if I could have gotten some LSD, lol…” doesn’t necessarily mean the poster is a drug user. They might be an idiot seeking attention, but still….
I think the take-away message of this article is that people still think that as soon as you connect to the internet you can be anonymous and you’re in some kind of safe-zone of family, friends, and like-minded peers. But anything you do online can (and probably will) be used to define and assess you not only as a job applicant, but perhaps also as a client for a particular service, a business acquaintance, etc. Think about that the next time you post a new Facebook status.