I have been rewriting our first book…so i have been away for a while from writing the blog…here is a section of the new book that will help reference checking. Today’s reference checking has to do with the permanent Internet and the intermingling of personal, social interaction and business. One of the first things a hiring organization is going to do is try to find out everything they can about the candidate on the Internet. They will Google your name, try to find your MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or any other kind of social/business networking account and review your Linkedin profile. Anything they find will be used to help or hinder your candidacy.
For better or for worse everything we might do, write or say could show up on the Internet. At least two times a month one of our candidates, who looks like they are going to get hired, gets eliminated because of what hiring organizations find out about them by just searching around on the Internet. Sometimes what they find has nothing to do with our candidate, except the same name. Recently one of our hiring authorities Googled the e-mail address of one of our candidates and found that someone with a very, very close e-mail address had written a review… of a prostitute. Unbelievable! It wasn’t our candidate, but the hiring authority was so taken back, he simply didn’t even want to discuss it. It wasn’t exactly the same email address, but close enough to be disturbing.
We’ve had candidates eliminated because of comments they made on Facebook, comments made about them on Facebook, pictures on their social networking sites, like MySpace, off-color public Twitter posts, blogs they have written about their views, insulting blogs written about them by ex-spouces, ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends, eight-year-old articles mentioning their name and questionable circumstances, as well as pejorative things that have been written about them by others that show up on the Internet. We’ve had candidates eliminated because their Linkedin profile did not agree with their resume, or didn’t have a very robust profile on Linkedin. We can’t count the number of times candidate’s identities have been confused with other people of the same name, causing a hiring authority to stop and think.(And don’t think “positive” recommendations on Linkedin make a big deal of difference. They don’t seem to.)
The New York Times reported a study by Microsoft claiming that 75% of executive recruiters and human resources professionals surveyed said they research promising candidates online, using search engines, social networking sites, personal websites, blogs, twitter feeds, online gaming sites, as well as photo and video sharing sites. 70% of those recruiters revealed that information found online lead them to reject a candidate.
The Times also reported a 25-year-old Pennsylvania high school “teacher in training” posted a photo of herself on her MySpace page with a pirate hat, holding a plastic cup at a party, along with the caption, “drunken pirate.” Less than a week before she was scheduled to graduate, the university refused to issue her a teaching degree because the students could find her photo online and get the impression she was encouraging drunkenness. When she sued, citing her First Amendment rights, the court ruled against her.
The constantly evolving, permanent digital record of our lives means we’ve lost, to a large degree, control of our reputations. The possibility of second chances may be lost as well. Most hiring authorities, when they discover anything of questionable nature regarding a candidate, will simply drop them. Unlike traditional reference checking that is usually centered around business people, this kind of reference checking has only the limits the Internet poses.
Over the next few years, people may come to their senses and realize anything they do, personal or public that might show up anywhere on the Internet, is not going to help them. There are two major issues candidates need to be aware of regarding this kind of reference checking.
First of all, clean up anything that might be questionable regarding your Internet “presence.” And don’t complain that personal stuff like this should be used to make business decisions about hiring you. Companies want to try to assess your character as much as anything else. They’re going to check your credit, arrest record, and anything else… including what might be about you on the Internet.
Secondly, do your own research on yourself. Be as extensive as you possibly can. If you find anything that you can’t do anything about, like articles about people with your same name, be prepared to let a hiring authority know of this issue before they do this type of reference checking.
There are now services available that offer to protect individuals reputations online. These services help their clients deal with negative personal information and enable them to monitor the web and influence what people see when they search for them online. Some of these services will not only monitoring your online presence, but also check your formal business references for you.
With these kind of challenges became reality a few years ago, many candidates were surprised that companies paid attention to this “social” type stuff. Some candidates use to simply blow it off and dismiss it. Others get downright mad about it. The bottom line is that it is very serious stuff and it can cost people, not just a job, but their career.