Even if you have stellar qualifications, you may not get a job interview if a prospective employer searches your name online to get background information and doesn’t like what pops up.
In a recently released paper “Reference check: Is your boss watching?” Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian gives some examples of entries that may raise concerns for employers researching you:
1. Questionable photos on your Facebook profile and your friends’ profiles. For example, if you appeared drunk or out of control, “partying” or otherwise engaged in behaviour that may be considered offensive, your reputation could suffer.
2. Your comments about employment situations such as: I hate my boss! I was late for work again today. I just can’t get out of bed! I shouldn’t have to work so hard!
3. Your religious, political, or sexual activities or views. (stated or implied through membership in groups).
Related: Dissing your boss could get you fired
To avoid embarrassment and possible loss of employment opportunities Cavoukian suggests protecting yourself by taking the following actions:
Think hard before you click: Don’t post text or photos to groups or discussion boards or write on anyone else’s Facebook pages or tweet about topics that you would not want to discuss with your current employer, or in a job interview.
Review what is out there about you: Check social networking sites, customized business and HR sites such as ZoomInfo and LinkedIn, and search engines such as Google. Some content might be completely fictional. Others may be referring to someone else with the same name as you, but you need to know what information or actions may be attributed to you.
Remove offensive material if possible: Also ask friends to take down items such as questionable photos of you. There are now private services available like reputation.com that can be retained to make good content rank highly in your Google search results, eventually displacing any negative content. However, you should be aware that the effects of some information may continue.
Because material removed may still live on in cached or archived copies of websites that can be located by internet users who are determined to find them, be prepared to explain any of the deleted material. It is also almost impossible to remove information that has found its way into news media or government records.
Implement strong social media privacy controls: Start by reviewing your privacy settings. These may be tricky to use, so once you’ve set them up, make sure you test them out – have someone try to look at your profile, or search it yourself on a public search engine.
Remember that if viewers of your profile can also view your friends’ pages, they may see images and read remarks that you’d rather not share. You should also ensure your profile is not visible to viewers of friends’ pages, and if possible, apply appropriate privacy controls to ensure that photos of you on other people’s pages are not “tagged” with your name.
Educate yourself about your rights: You are protected by various employment, human rights and privacy laws. Consider very carefully any request from a prospective employer requesting access to your password protected social media sites. Cavoukian says they shouldn’t be asking.
Build a positive image on your profile: This can be down through comments on your own and others’ sites, photos, and groups. That’s what you want prospective employers to see.
Keep it factually accurate: Employers may engage in fact checking with others or reach out to additional sources.
Canada’s human rights and privacy laws provide strong protection for job applicants when it comes to improper practices such as employers requesting personal passwords. But nobody wants to have to file a complaint or go to court.
By being vigilant and managing your online profile you minimize the chance that recruiters will uncover any deep, dark secrets when they enter your name into a search engine or look for you on your favourite social media sites.