Keeping a clean web presence and checking what is said by and about you online is evidently about as important as resume building. Recruiters would not be particulary impressed by racist or judgmental comments on your blog, pictures of you drinking or drunk posted on Facebook and of course, they would raise an eyebrow when they read a bad quote attributed to you on a friends blog or an ancient newspaper crawl (remember the “teen-speak” columns all those newspapers do that you might have featured in long, long ago?). And lets face it, the recruiter wouldn’t want any potential interviewees seeing something compromising about them either.
There is a new tale about how to lose your job in 140 characters or less circulating around about a real life story of someone who published a rather unfortunate tweet. The post I refer to above also talks about the need to be very, very cautious when posting something on the internet (like this blog post, for instance). Everything you post on blogs, twitter, facebook and anywhere else will come back and haunt you 10 years from today thanks to search and archives.
There are, of course, some things that you just don’t do. Posting a questionable comment about a job you managed to land (no matter what the economic landscape) is one of them. It’s again, not the smartest thing in the world to express extremes of opinion or say nasty things about people very publicly.
With the advent of social media, however, I think it’s become increasingly difficult to draw the line between what is should concern employers and what should not. Read this story about someone who posted unflattering comments about a city where he was going to make an important presentation. The tweet was probably in bad taste but I wonder if it was directly relevant to his professional life. Surely a person is entitled to like, dislike or absolutely hate a city he lands in and tweet about it!
What about someone named in a nasty goodbye email that finds its way onto the internet? What if a friend, in a moment of anger posts something nasty about you on their blog, then deletes it but the cached version lingers forever? What if a picture of you snapped at a party finds its way onto someone elses facebook album? What if you express a strong opinion on an issue and it gets pulled up – out of context – years from today? What if you forward something harmless to a friend who, in all good faith finds the stuff interesting, posts it on her blog and attributes the forward to you? What if you tweeted about an article that was once considered rather harmless but is now controversial? (imagine how a decade or two from today we’ll be really feeling the effects of global warming and low oil reserves and a record of all positive reviews of Hummers and SUV’s and their authors will be available)
Just because everything is searchable and archived and tagged and labelled, does it mean that we should actually search and probe and draw inferences from every piece of information available about a person online? Should a person be judged by what the web shows about him than what we see, hear and experience in a conversation? And finally, how relevant is most of the stuff thrown up in a web search to one’s professional life? I think it’s time someone came up with guidelines in that regard…
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