There was a recent article in The New York Times entitled “For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé.” The article outlined the potential danger of having personal information on the Internet. The author mentions some the popular Websites Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, and Friendster, which can serve as sounding boards or scrapbooks of people’s bad habits, vulgarities, and intimate details of their lives. These sites may also contain photographs of people displaying lewd or obscene behavior. Many employers are now looking beyond a resume and job application, and are using these sites to do a first-round, informal background check on prospective candidates. Employers who find obscene or lewd content may question a candidate’s character and judgment, and this may eliminate an applicant from consideration. In addition to these community sites, it is very common for hirers to “Google” applicants and employees to see what results a search will yield. This phenomenon also extends to the freelance/contracting community. Blogs, writing samples, and personal Websites can all be used to determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a certain opportunity.
Therefore, keep in mind what impression you are giving off to prospective employers. If your blog contains numerous complaints about your current boss, a prospective employer may access your rants, and he or she may not consider you for a position at the company. Your own personal views of your current boss, employees-or even political views-can potentially cast a doubt on your ability to make well-reasoned judgments. Who is to say that you won’t post vitriolic messages on a public blog about a prospective employer? Not many hirers will give you the chance to prove yourself otherwise.
My advice to those who do have online personas or who post messages on the Internet. Try Googling yourself, and see what results you come up with. Is there anything in those results that can cast a bad shadow on you? If so, you may want to have that information removed from the site.
Although the article did include mention of many major companies that do not search for information about candidates-they prefer not to know about the personal lives of their employees-you should at least know what information there is about you floating around the Internet.