Over 70% of employers use Google to check out potential recruits. Latest studies from ExecuNet suggest that this goes beyond scanning the top 10 search results, and often involves reading each applicant’s website, blogs and social media feeds. Most of us grudgingly accept this practice as an inevitability of the internet age. What might make us more uncomfortable is thinking too hard about what they’re checking for…
What are your Skeletons?
Skeletons don’t have to be the secrets from your past that would make juicy tabloid gossip. Even if you’ve led a squeaky clean life, your social media closet is probably rattling with skeletons that you didn’t know existed. Employers, universities and future clients have high standards. Higher, perhaps, than we’d like to think:
In a recent Guardian interview, Shuvo Loha, the director of headhunting specialists Janikin Rooke, talked about the realities of a Google check: “What seemed like a funny photo from university could end up costing you a job or an interview without you even knowing. Evidence of a negative or bad attitude, revealed through too much complaining or ranting, would put me off…. Bad mouthing other people, especially employers, is out, as is anything that exaggerates or is too self-promotional.”
Employers who Google check aren’t just weeding out people with criminal records. 35% of employers have rejected a candidate on the basis of a Google search, often for the smallest flaws:
- Unflattering/silly photos
- Spelling and grammar mistakes
- Arguments with friends
- Outspoken views
- Rants about their current job
Look again through the list and think about your own social media feeds. Do you feel uneasy? Time for a spring clean!
De-Skeleton your Social Media Closet
Out with the old… Spend a day going through your feeds and deleting anything (even slightly) incriminating. Delete, de-tag, remove. Increasingly, things from years ago could back come to haunt you. Facebook’s ‘popular posts’ feature displays random events from your history to your social network. The easiest way to get peace of mind is to clear away the rubbish.
- Keep your networks separate – We all have many sides of ourselves, and change our behaviour in different situations. Keep them separate. If you like to let your hair down on Facebook – don’t add your boss. There’s no need to be rude, simply respond to their friend request with a counter invitation to join you on Linkedin.
- Keep your friends close – It’s easy to forget who could be silently lurking on our social media feeds. Look over your friends list occasionally. Consider de-friending people that you don’t interact with or who make you uncomfortable. When you write a status update, try to be mindful of your entire audience, not just your closest friends.
- Public profiles – Many people don’t pay enough attention to their public profile. Yet this is exactly what potential employers will scour. Log out of the network and check how you look from the outside. A good public profile should be minimal and well written: cards-to-chest rather than heart-on-sleeve.
- Ghosts are as dangerous as skeletons – Many of us who grew up with the internet will have built a teenage website. Angsty poetry, punk rock zines and a blog to share your darkest feelings. Are you sure you closed that account and the link is dead? Perhaps you’d better check…
Make A New Resolution
Just like your mother said, it’s easier if you tidy up as you go along, rather than in one mad dash. To keep skeletons at bay, be sure to think before you post. If you keep your updates professional and save your rants and melodrama for the real world, you won’t have a problem. Anything else is just another skeleton in your closet.
Jennifer Clayton is a copywriter. She spends most of her time running Ownbeat Creatives (www.ownbeat.co.uk) - a design and marketing firm in York, UK. She likes words, loathes numbers, and needs a drip-feed of coffee to survive.