We’ve all been there. One minute you're minding your own business, the next you're joining the Facebook group for your 10 or 20-year high school reunion, and then before you know it, you’re in the social media vortex, playing Magnum P.I… stalking pictures of your former crush, checking to see if the captain of the football team still has all his hair or if the class president really did fulfill her promise to become “most likely to succeed.” (Ugh, she totally did.) Playing detective can be thrilling when it’s your high school memories, and for the most part, it’s harmless (albeit addictive) fun. However, when you're on the receiving end of the sleuthing, it can be less amusing, or even detrimental. Especially when it’s your future employer investigating.
So, it should be no surprise to you that as recruiters, we ALSO like playing detective with you online, and we’re looking for the fun stuff. So, if you’re inclined to play it safe (and while it deprives us of our fun, we strongly suggest you do) here are some tips to keep the surprises to a minimum:
- Google Yourself.
In all forms. Go beyond the third or fourth page. Add fun descriptors like “former” and “terminated”. Because we will. Disgruntled employee? Jilted girlfriend? If they’ve written a diatribe about you online, we’re only too happy to find it. Maybe it’s your high school track results or residential address, but expect something to come up. And hope that it’s just that unflattering picture from the last fundraiser you attended. PRO TIP: If you find something you’re not happy with, consider telling us about it before we find it. If it’s not something that is easily explained away, consider hiring a reputation company that can scrub those results.
- Make your social media accounts private
We know it might make it harder to become #instafamous, but unless you want us to see various versions of your duckface pose, you on vacation (again), or that little period where you experimented with bangs and ended up looking like a band member from “Flock of Seagulls,” best to keep your #instalife to yourself. It’s not that we’re judging, except, well, we are. PRO TIP: Seriously, if you’re trying your hand at being an “influencer,” be mindful of the influence you might be having on your reputation and what it says about you to potential employers.
- Even if your accounts are locked down, be mindful of what you post.
Even if your accounts are private, things have a way of getting out. The general rule of thumb with social media is: “if you wouldn’t be comfortable showing it to your grandmother, avoid posting it.” So, unless Nana is trollop who drinks and swears like a sailor, you might re-think using offensive language or posting that playful pic of you draped over a futon with a permanent marker mustache drawn on by your pals after you passed out from tequila shooters at Brad’s 30th. PRO TIP: Be aware of photos you’re tagged in. If anyone has tagged you on their page in a photo that is unflattering to your reputation, ask them to please take it down (or at the very least, untag you.)
- No Rants (Political or Otherwise).
So yeah, the political furor in the country has reached a fever pitch, and unless you live in a Utopian bubble, you probably have an opinion about it. Feel free to ruin your Thanksgiving dinner by openly trading barbs with your Aunt Barb, who lives on the other side of the political aisle from you, but keep such disputes off the comment feeds on your Facebook page. Same goes for that indignant Lifetime movie-worthy monologue about how you were “wronged at Starbucks by that boorish barista.” Besides, are you the best writer when you’re mad? No. PRO TIP: While Switzerland may take some grief for refusing to “pick a side,” there’s safety in neutrality. If you can’t say something nice…just tell it to us in private. We love a good snarkfest (offline).
- Honesty is the best policy.
As the saying goes, “if you don’t give people information, they’ll make something up to fill the void.” It’s better to be upfront about your history and control the narrative, rather than try to omit information and hope no one finds out. So, if you leave a job off a resume that we find online or on your google page, rest assured you just raised some red flags with us. Same goes if you falsify information about dates of hire, educational background, accomplishments or affiliations. What’s that? Bill Gates didn’t write that letter of recommendation? PRO TIP: If you're a nonprofit exec, assume we will look up your last 990 to find out how much you raised.
It’s true, it’s an increasingly digital world. And unless you live in a yurt in the Sahara, a big part of your life is spent online. But even a yurt-dwelling hermit leaves footprints in the sand.
And for your future sleuthing employer, the footprints you leave behind become clues to your history and the paths you’ve previously taken. So, watch where you step. Avoid landmines, open manhole covers, and steaming piles of dog poop. If you do, you’ll reach your next destination safely (and your shoes will smell a lot better.)