Everyone has heard the warning: Don’t put images or statements online that you wouldn’t want potential employers to see.
Now more than ever, companies are checking the public online profiles of prospective new hires. So if you upload that incriminating photo from your friend’s 21st birthday party or Tweet a nasty comment about a former boss, you could be saying, “So long, new job.”
This warning has been drilled into our heads by parents, teachers and career seminars, but is it just a fear tactic designed to make youth cut back on their Internet-advertised debauchery — or does the argument actually hold true?
As it turns out, it does. A recent survey from Microsoft said that 70 percent of U.S. hiring managers have rejected an applicant based on something the applicant posted online, and that number is only going to go up as more companies turn to the Internet to scope out potential employees.
Understandably, this might make you a bit paranoid about what you do online. What specifically are they doing to check on applicants?
Companies have embraced the online world, and are quite savvy at foraging through your public resources. They search for information on applicants via e-mail addresses, not names, so simply changing your screen name on Facebook or Twitter — a recent trend — is not going to help.
There have been many cases of people ranting about their jobs online, only for their bosses to see it and fire them. The Internet is a pulpit for opinion, but we have to remember that it is also public.
If the Internet can be so costly to our future in the job market, then should we continue to use it? I highly doubt people would abandon Facebook in order to remain scandal-free for jobs, but if using it is detrimental to our future, it might not be worth it.
But not every online presence is negative. The truth is the Internet can actually help with your career in the long run — the trick is to use it to your advantage. While the research from Microsoft mostly reflects how an honest Internet comment can be detrimental to hiring, it also showed that good content online can help you get that job you want. A strong, positive Internet presence demonstrates technological savvy and networking skills that many employers look for these days.
In fact, if you have a strong Internet presence that shows off a wide range of skills, then it can negate some of the unsuitable content. If you run a website or blog that demonstrates an expertise in an area that you are looking for a job in, then the site could help show that you have the skills for the position.
A friend of mine is a great example of this. He has a well-viewed video online where he shotguns a can of beer. At the same time though, he runs three websites that are not only very serious but show off his skill at research, technology and web television.
So if an employer were to search for him online, they would find a large range of information on him, and more than likely the good content would outweigh the content seen as inappropriate.
This isn’t to say that as long as you have good content online that you can post anything on the Internet and not worry about how it can affect your career. Keep some common sense in mind with what you post online. If you think something would make you look bad, don’t post it. Watch your language, especially if you are talking about work, and just be aware that employers are checking.
There are ways to help make your online presence more favorable for employment. It helps to sometimes set up multiple e-mail accounts — one professional, the other personal. This allows you to put the professional e-mail on your résumé, keeping some more personal aspects of your life away from employers, and even helps to organize your e-mails as a whole.
In addition to promoting yourself online, you can use the Internet to help find jobs. Sites like LinkedIn.com allow for professional networking between companies and potential employees. Users can set up a strong list of contacts, references and even recommend others for positions through the site. They can also post their résumés for employers to look at.
Then there are websites for job listings. Instead of having to call and track down employers, applications and search filters for jobs are clicks away.
Taking advantage of these resources can help you not only find a job but get an application in quicker. The internet should be a tool to help you further your career, not stop it in its tracks. So don’t let some photos or comments keep you from landing that dream job. We are supposed to be the tech-savvy, networking generation. Let’s use that to our advantage.
Nicholas Slayton is a freshman majoring in print journalism. His column, A Series of Tubes, runs Thursdays.