Below is some great advice for those of you looking for a job now or in the future. David Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, a tech industry recruiter was kind enough to share his expert advice on the subject of job hunting and the affect of one’s digital footprint. Plus, some other interesting tidbits.
– What trends do you see with the emergence of digital footprints?
The reality is people are finding more and more information about other people on the Web. Individuals need to be aware of their online presence and understand that what they post online publicly is out there for all to see, indefinitely – whether it’s a potential employer, fellow coworker, client or prospective business partner. Virtually everyone leaves some sort of ‘digital footprint’ these days, whether they intentionally set out to create one or not. Younger Gen Yers, especially, should keep in mind that what they post now could affect them later once they enter the job market. For those currently in the job market, it’s critical to learn how to manage electronic information about yourself, and ensure that it presents a favorable, professional image of you. Having a positive online presence is especially important today since hiring managers are often searching the Web to find out more about job applicants. Employers aren’t just looking for red flags – often, they are seeking evidence that someone is actively involved in the profession, perhaps through participation in trade groups or industry blogs. They also may be looking for inconsistencies with representations made on applicants’ resumes.
– How can job seekers begin to control theirs? If at all.
While you can’t always control what others say about you online, you can post prudently, including comments on personal blogs or in open forums, as well as photos. In addition, you can take steps to ensure your online image is as polished and professional as possible. The first step is finding out what information about you is already online by performing a search using popular search engines. If you discover an item that you wouldn’t want hiring managers to see, ask that the person who posted the information or website administrator to remove it. Similarly, untag any inappropriate photos of yourself. If you belong to social networking sites or have a personal blog, it’s a good idea to adjust your privacy settings so you control who has access to the content. Also, set alerts to Google or other tracking services, like Technorati or BlogPulse, under your name so you can receive an e-mail notification every time something new is said about you online.
– Can you really just ask websites to remove information that you don’t agree with (as you outline in your managing digital imprint tips)?
If you find something online about yourself that is untrue or that you wouldn’t want hiring managers to see, you should definitely contact the person who published the information or website administrator and kindly ask that it be taken down. Most sites have policies that deal with such requests; and while your request might not always be honored, it doesn’t hurt to try. That said, it’s important to be prepared to discuss any false or unflattering information about you that cannot be removed, and spin the situation in a positive light. For example, if a hiring manager asks about a wild photo from your college days, steer the conversation in a more positive direction by pointing out how your outgoing personality will help you thrive in the role. Most employers will be understanding if you are honest about the incident and can see you are qualified for the position.
– How are recruiters and HR professional using the digital space to research candidates? Do you have any interesting example of candidates that have gotten jobs or have lost a job specifically because of their digital footprint?
Hiring managers may be searching the digital space, including professional and social networking sites and blogs, looking for clues to a candidate’s character, personality or work ethic. While there may be situations where they have uncovered information, either positive or negative, we find it more productive to interview job candidates in person and speak directly to some of their references.
– Does Gen Y have a different mentality when if comes to digital footprints than Gen X and earlier generations? Content generators vs. spectators…
Generation Y has certainly been called more tech-savvy than previous generations because of the proliferation of technology they have been exposed to early on. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are any better at managing their digital footprint than members of Gen X or earlier generations. They may be more familiar with new tools and protocols related to the Web, but they need to be just as vigilant about what they are saying and posting online as professionals who are less accustomed to these activities.
– Do you foresee government protection and privacy legislation impacting the transfer of digital information? Related to background checks for employment, as well as for banking, search, social networking, etc. Like there is for analog information (US Mail)
We can’t predict what legislation may develop in the future, so it’s always best to be selective and protective with the information you post electronically.