Yes You’re Being Judged: Why Business Professionals Internet Stalk You and How You Can Prevent It
It will come as no surprise that your social media profiles tell a prospective employer considerably more about you than any tailored job site.
I worked for several years as the Human Resource Director for a startup company, hiring primarily college students and recent grads for part-time teaching positions. When new résumés came in, I scanned them for applicable content and major errors, and then turned a more detailed eye to the web. Where did I search? First Facebook, then LinkedIn, and then a general Google search to see what other dirt might come up. For reference, books upon books, like [amazon text=this one&asin=1781909008], have been written for people like me just for this purpose.
It will come as no surprise that your social media profiles tell a prospective employer considerably more about you than any tailored job site. I recently stressed this point while talking to a college junior who is just starting the internship application process, explaining that no matter how put together her résumé, if an employer can see even just a few photos of her partying or in suggestive clothing, those pictures may cost her an interview. The worst part is that she didn’t even realize some of those photos were publicly viewable.
This may be even truer for people who are already established in their positions. More and more frequently individuals are being let go from their jobs because something popped up – a status admitting you’re playing hooky when you’ve called in sick or a photo that doesn’t align with the values of your workplace (see the recent resignation of Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for U.S. House Representative Stephen Fincher). And, while it is social media and not business media for a reason, these public exploits can still heavily impact your position. The truth of the matter is that you represent your company whether you’re on the clock or not they have a vested interest in how you present yourself both in and out of the office.
I’m sure right now you’re concerned about your social media profiles, wondering if someone – and who – will go digging into your past.
So, what can you do?
Option 1: Deactivate your social media accounts.
Not your favorite choice?
Option 2: Lock them down!
I figure this is a good time to note that I am pretty big on internet security (my husband is in IT and we change our passwords at home regularly, which is something everyone should do). It’s really easy to change your settings to keep your social media accounts away from prying eyes. Many sites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, even your YouTube stream – allow you to adjust your privacy settings so that you can decide what is publicly visible and what is not.
While you’re at it, go through your friends lists. Don’t want someone to see your stuff? Don’t be friends with them. It’s that simple. If after you change your privacy settings you are still concerned about what might be viewable by other people, logout of each account and then search for yourself to see what is openly available. If you think something might be questionable, hide it or – even better – take it down (no matter how many “likes” it’s gotten).
Be aware that while sites like Reddit don’t show your actual name, you can still be traceable via your username if it is something you use frequently on the internet, such as for your Twitter and Instagram profiles, or even your email address. Additionally, apps like Yik Yak geotag your posts to a pinpoint – whether you allow it to be posted publicly or its simply hidden metadata – and there is potential for malicious posts to be traced back to you (not to mention that they are internally recording which posts come from which phone numbers).
This process may sound tedious, but unless you’re ready to logoff and disconnect (which I know most of us aren’t!), taking these steps to ensure your privacy is maintained on the big World Wide Web will benefit you in the long run.
Still unsure? Check out this awesome, fool-proof infographic on posting etiquette: