HR and Hiring–the New Big Brother?

Think your online reputation is a secondary matter to be handled the same way you handle an update on FaceBook?   Think again.  Please.

A recent study by Cross-Tab for Microsoft in Europe and the US, interviewed HR execs, recruiters, and consumers about the impact of your online reputation on getting hired.

Findings included:

  • 70% of US recruiters and HR professionals in the survey have “rejected candidates based on information they found online.”
  • It’s not just used to rule out the obviously inappropriate candidates.  Nearly half of US recruiters and HR professionals surveyed say that a strong online reputation influences hiring decisions “to a great extent.”  More than 85% say it has some impact on hiring.
  • Unfortunately, many people don’t yet know this. The study concluded that consumers (except the French) generally underestimated the impact of online information about them.   In fact, about 1/3 of consumers don’t believe their online reputation affects their professional or personal lives.  Apparently they need to read this survey that they participated in.

Big Brother Arrives

Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that employers can and in fact ARE checking out your personal life in ways they never could legally do before during job interviews.

For instance, they can and do easily check out your religious and other affiliations, finances, family situation and even medical conditions.   Big Brother goes corporate.

You need to take charge of your online presence.  By the way, I might add that being invisible isn’t a great strategy, either. Having no presence is even worse (though this wasn’t discussed in the survey’s key findings).  Talk about suspicious—not using FaceBook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. may keep you safe from revealing data, but think how that will look to most employers and whether they’re more likely to hire the one with the good online reputation or the one with none.

What can you do?  Here’s some basics that the survey found consumers were doing to manage their reputations:

  • Being careful about what they post and where
  • Using multiple personas for different sites
  • Adjusting privacy settings (a recent big issue on FaceBook)
  • Googling their names and doing other searches to see what a potential (or current) employer might be seeing

You also need to be careful what you post about OTHERS as that will come up and could bite them.

I’d also recommend a much more proactive approach where you actively campaign for yourself.  You can do this by posting important credentials and goals on LinkedIn and VisualCV, participating in LinkedIn and other professionally oriented groups, posting comments and answers on other people’s blogs related to your career and work interests, and generally being a knowledgeable, helpful presence online.  If you are more ambitious, you can also use WordPress to put up your own blog about a topic you know something about and participate in the rapid, ephemeral messaging world of Twitter.

Finally, I don’t want to scare you as if every silly comment or misspelled message might cost you a job.  Just realize that your online presence is typically a very public one, even though you are creating it in the privacy of your home, cubicle or on your smartphone.  So think first, upload second.

You can find a link to download the entire PDF report here.

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