Even It Up!

Shifting the balance for jobseekers

Social media and job hunting: do you make these 4 mistakes?

with 6 comments

In a recent post about the Fair Work Act 2009, Even It Up! talked briefly about social media and the legalities around whether employers can use what they find online to aid the hiring decision.  Simply put: they can’t.  It is illegal to do so.  But as with many things in this world, it’s only illegal if you get caught!  Savvy employers will find other legal ways to refuse to offer a job to someone, for example:

  • you are overqualified
  • you are underqualified
  • you don’t have enough experience
  • you don’t have the right sort of experience for the role
  • you may not be a good cultural fit
  • they have decided to put all hiring on hold
  • the position has been given to a redeployee
  • an internal applicant won the role.

etc. etc.  There is nothing in what has been said above to indicate that a prospective employer went onto your Facebook/Twitter/MySpace page and did not like what they saw.  And whether josbeekers like it or not, employers can and probably will.  It’s naive to think otherwise. So, in the interest of protecting your personal brand (particularly aimed at Generation Y* jobseekers) here are some tips to help you:

1. Be careful what you write in your status updates.

We live in an era where we can talk about what we are doing and what we are thinking 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.  But that doesn’t mean that we should.  Diane Lee  is on Facebook and was recently appalled at a homophobic, pornographic, and really unsavoury status update that was written by a Gen Y ex-student, and promptly removed the update (and all future updates from this person) from the Newsfeed (she is also considering  de-Friending the person involved).  The question then becomes: would you employ (or recommend) this person knowing  this is how/what they think?

One could argue that while our privacy needs to be protected (and should be), social media offers a transparency that allows employers to really see what a person is like.  It transcends interviews and reference checks.  And, from an employer’s perspective wouldn’t it be better to have evidence that someone thought (given thought is widely understood to be an indicator/predictor of behaviour) in discriminatory ways?  Could it be argued that social media is an extension of the vicarious liability laws?  Isn’t being aware of a person’s potential to be behave inappropriately heading off a lawsuit?  Isn’t it better to manage the brand of the organisation before the hire is made?  Not easy questions to answer…

2. Be careful what photos you upload

Ditto above, but the catch here is that other people can also upload photos of you.  You need to ensure that if you are tagged (in Facebook, for example)  and you don’t like the photo, you remove the tag immediately.  And you can set your privacy settings so that you can’t be tagged by other people.  If you are uploading photos a) be careful what you upload b) to where and c) who can view them.  Also, if you are the one uploading photos of other people, have some consideration for how they will be perceived.

3. Tweak your privacy settings

Most social media sites allow you to tweak your privacy settings.  If you are concerned about who is viewing your profile, make sure you adjust your settings to private (or similar).  But as demonstrated in the first tip, you still need to ensure that you are thinking big picture.  If you aren’t sure about a post or update, ask yourself if you would be happy if a) it was splashed across the front page of a major newspaper/TV news show or b) whether you would be happy for the CEO of <insert company where dream job is located here> read your post. If the answer to both is negative, err on the side of caution, and just don’t.

4. Google yourself

There are a number of sites where you can check  to see what is your online presence is (and Thomas Shaw from The Recruitment Directory listed a number of sites in his response to the Fair Work post). One of the easiest ways is to put your name in inverted commas and Google yourself.  For example the search for “diane lee” comes up with this. And this is just the Australia search. It’s worthwhile doing just to check what’s out there, and Even It Up! encourages  all jobseekers to Google themsleves. If there’s nothing there (or your name, but it’s not you), it’s time to build an online presence; if your online presence is less than rose-smelling, you need to move quickly to clean it up.

Work/life encroachment

The argument is: work is work and home is home, and what people do in their own time does not affect their ability to the do the job.  This argument loses strength when we consider how much work impacts (and encroaches on) our personal lives.  Hands up who has a work mobile or email where they are encouraged – nay, expected! – to answer/attend to 24/7?  Thought so.  How many of you bring work home?  Thought so there, too.  How many of you think about work, even if you are on holidays (and feel guilty because we aren’t working)?  Yep.  There’s another one!  And how many of you missed a special event because of something you “had to do for work”? And yet we still naively think that work and our personal lives can be kept separate.  The internet has enabled the demarcation to blur.  Social media is just fuzzying up things even more, and the law is trying (and probably failing) to keep up.

The point of this post is to make readers aware.  Josbeekers (of all generations!) really should be proactively managing their online presence to ensure that they are squeaky clean.  After all, you never know who is looking.

*If you are interested, more info about Generation Y is available here.

Written by evenitup

July 31, 2009 at 11:17 am

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Di, Good post, if you haven’t seen it have a look at this recent blog of mine regarding Gen Y; http://www.mindsetgroup.biz/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=2244&PostID=49820

    Cheers Aaron

    Aaron Dodd

    October 17, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    • Aaron, your post was an interesting read. I teach Gen Ys and (on the whole) really like them. Mostly, they are a pretty transparent bunch – which can lead to the social media “issues” that have we Gen Xers/Baby Boomers gasping in horror. Generation Z are supposed to be an even more interesting bunch!


      October 19, 2009 at 7:23 pm

  2. This is one of the reasons why I’m quite ambivalent about Twitter, which by default has your posts set to “public”. I see the usefulness of it, being part of all these conversations, but can’t help being wary about how your “tweets” may be used against you in the future.

    It’s one thing to be posting technical questions and answers in mailing list, but getting into the shakier realm of opinions… well, there are just so many ways they can be misunderstood, or prejudgements about you made on the basis of posts that took 3 seconds of thought.


    August 13, 2009 at 10:06 pm

  3. There are a lot of variables, but I have found as a Gen Yer that you are scrutinised a lot more online than what I assume I would be if I was 30 or 40.

    My current and past employer both have confessed that prior to my employment they checked Facebook and MySpace for me and also Googled me. Only Facebook returned a hit… but I had set the profile to private so all anyone who is not a friend can see is my profile photo (not one of me drunk) and my friends. They found this sufficiatly professional, and I recieved commendations for this.

    I agree with Diane, whenever you write something online think about who it is going to be read by!

    Sarah C

    August 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm

  4. Worthy discussion. With so many variables surrounding a hiring decision, it’s a relatively simple process to locate a valid legal reason for not employing someone. Activity on social media sites really needs to be viewed in the context of your “personal brand” – not just what you are posting about yourself, but also what others may be saying about you. Give employers a reason to hire, not reject!

    Mark L Mahoney

    August 3, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    • Even It Up! is so happy to find someone who acknowledges that there are variables in the hiring decision. Most people seem to think that it’s a black and white, follow-your-nose, clinical sort of process. Human beings make the hiring decision and are well, human. Jobseekers trust the process, and nine times out of ten, they shouldn’t. Jobseekers: protect your personal brand!


      August 4, 2009 at 9:41 am

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