Potential Employers Are Watching You

by Jason Falls |
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On Thursday of this week, Crystal Peterson, Doe-Anderson‘s senior vice-president for human resources, and I will give a talk to the Louisville Advertising Federation called, “I See Your Profile: Your Online Life Has Windows.” The talk is to illustrate to young advertising professionals that they should be participating in social media, but they should also be taking precautions to protect their personal reputation and ensure potential employers are turned off by Googling their name.

[flickr style=”float: left”]photo:2543641452[/flickr]Certainly, we’ll explore the story of Kevin Colvin, who called in sick at an Irish bank only to be photographed dressed as a fairy on the day in question (at a Halloween party). We’ll also pump out the pictures of the infamous Facebook group, “30 Reasons Girls Should Call It A Night,” which features real photos uploaded by Facebook users, believe it or not. I also found a great shot of a not-soon-to-be-employed dude smoking a joint. Frankly, I was speechless.

Since I have a few days more to prepare, I thought I’d ask all of you to offer thoughts and ideas, particularly if you have some outstanding pictures to go along with an example. (I can’t put my finger on the crack-pipe smoking co-eds I saw on someone’s blog about six months ago. If you have it or know where it is, hit me with a comment and a link!)

Searching around for examples over the weekend, I immediately became thankful image uploading and sharing wasn’t online when I was in college. To my knowledge, all of the images of toga parties, panty raids and bathing in tubs full of Jell-O shots are either burned or hidden away. (I’m kidding … I hate Jell-O.)

Having served the role of potential employer recently, I proved the theory true – I not only Googled everyone I was interested in for the social media manager‘s position at Doe-Anderson, but I randomly browsed through MySpaces and Facebooks to see what information I could find. Fortunately, outside of some typical college spring break type pictures of a couple of folks, there was nothing too gratuitous. However, there were a few images that a more conservative manager might have balked at.

Then I started going through the pictures of some of my Facebook friends to see if they had anything bad there. Keep in mind, I used to work as a public relations professional in the athletic departments of several colleges and universities. A good number of my Facebook friends are between the ages of 21-25 — the wheelhouse for flaws in pic posting decorum.

I found two particular individuals (who I’ve reached out to privately) who had what I determined to be fairly inappropriate images for a potential employer to see. One was the said individual drinking a beer – not entirely awful, but again, some folks aren’t as socially liberal as me. The other had a picture of two young ladies, rather scantily clad, dancing with one spanking the other. Again, not horrendous, but not appropriate, either. (And yes, it was a very difficult time reviewing all those spring break pictures. Heh.)

What my adventures browsing told me was that we all need to help educate one another, particularly those of the new generation of professionals, as to what is appropriate and what is not. Sure, we can also just teach people how to privatize their pictures so potential employers can’t see them, but having them there in the first place is the problem. Besides, what’s to prevent one of their friends from allowing people in to see the same picture in their photo stream or even tagging a person in a picture they have nothing to do with?

So if you or someone you know is right out of college or even still a young, 20- or 30-something with an active night life, remind them that their employer or potential employers can probably find a way to see the images, wall posts and public comments or blogs they might have on MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube or more. The best approach is to parse those profiles of questionable images now and keep tabs on our own reputation from here forward (start off with Google Alerts of your name) to ensure anything posted about you anywhere is cool for those hiring to see.

Please pass on your thoughts and suggestions in the comments. Crystal and I will review them as we prepare Thursday’s presentation. And though it won’t be slide heavy, I’ll post it on Slideshare for all to see.

IMAGE:Shadow” by d-faith-k on Flickr.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).