Job hunters should avoid risky online behavior

Employment seekers should understand their digital identities on social networks are perceived as an extension of their personalities and need to be handled carefully, caution recruiters.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor on

Those on the lookout for jobs have one thing they should keep in mind: their online identities may hamper their chances of landing the dream job.

According to recruiters whom ZDNet Asia got in touch with, it was revealed that while employers and recruitment agents are not using social networks as a primary source to conduct background checks on potential hires, they still visit these sites to look into candidates' online profiles on an informal basis.

Managing your online self
Recruiters dispense advice on how people can better shape their digital identities.
•  Be cautious
Limit access to your social networking sites to close friends and family only, said the JobStreet.com representative. "Don't post information that you don't want others to know as nothing remains confidential on the Web."
•  Be mindful
If you're thinking of venting your work frustrations online, don't. Hudson's Cheng said employees risk being terminated by firms for their implied content and remarks that may be deemed unprofessional and in breach of trust and confidentiality.
•  Be selective
Don't blindly accept requests from current or potential colleagues and employers to join your network, advised Robert Walter's Melo. This is to avoid these people making judgments about you and your personality based on what they see or read online, he added.

Yeo Gek Cheng, director of IT & T practices at recruitment firm Hudson, said in her e-mail that employers will find it "hard to resist" the ease of checking out someone's Facebook profile to know more about his or her background. That said, such feedback impressions are "not a part of the formal screening process".

Furthermore, human resource managers are under "a lot more pressure" to make sure their new hires are the right fit and will not lead to the company incurring more costs if these new employees fail to deliver, noted Mark Melo, a Robert Walters IT & T consultant.

"As such, [recruiters] tend to make use of whatever resources are available to them, [which include] looking into some social networks to try and find out information that reveals more about the [potential candidates] than what they would normally see on their resumes," he added.

While using social networks to vet potential hires is not yet a "natural part of the recruitment process", Melo pointed out that most recruiters would do so, especially when they have identified a candidate whom they are considering seriously to hire.

This is why recruiters such as Melo and Cheng urge jobseekers to be mindful of the information they put up on social networking sites, to prevent losing job opportunities because of their online identities and activities.

ZDNet Asia also heard from online job portal JobStreet.com, with the company's spokesperson saying: "Do appreciate that [online identities on] these social networking sites can be an extension of one's personality and branding. Handle with care and the tool can be useful, but it is definitely not one's personal diary for public viewing."

Risky online behavior limits employment
Certainly, this advice is well served for those who are actively engaged in the online social scene.

Young adults who fall into the "Generation Y" demographic are particularly at risk, according to a recent RSA survey. The poll showed that 7 out of 10 young adults in the U.S. admit to not being always as careful as they should be when posting and accessing online information. RSA engaged TRU Research to conduct the poll, which drew in responses from about 1,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.

The survey also found that 67 percent of the respondents admitted to posting inappropriate content such as photos and videos involving "cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and sex online", yet 76 percent of those polled are searching or planning to start searching for jobs. Such risky online behavior could potentially limit employment opportunities, the press release stated.

"The irony of these findings is that the generation that has grown up with the greatest percentage of its life knowing technology and the Internet and that claims to know about the risks of technology, is the one that is ignoring the good advice," said RSA's chief technologist Sam Curry in the media statement.

Background check or intrusion of privacy?
In another report by CNN, it cited a survey commissioned by Microsoft, which revealed that 70 percent of recruiters and hiring managers in the U.S. have actually rejected an applicant based on information they found online.

This has led to young American adults using pseudonyms or leaving out part of their name in their online profile for social sites such as Facebook, the article noted.

One student, Jeffrey Lefcort, was quoted as saying: "I just didn't want to be found by someone who was looking for me that I'm not friends with. My Facebook profile is not intended for employers [and] I don't want them looking at my personal life."

The Microsoft survey polled 1,200 recruiters and 1,200 consumers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany, but did not look into the hiring practices within the Asia-Pacific region.

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