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Privacy and your job search

28 Apr 2016

Eileen Moloney

It’s no secret that as a job seeker today, you will come across a hiring manager (or two) who will run a search on your social media profiles to see what lies beneath the professional front that you present. Sound unfair?

Thank your lucky stars that you aren’t one of the candidates in the United States who were asked to hand over their passwords so that prospective employers could really take a closer look into your life online. Thankfully this was considered excessively intrusive and also grounds for potential discrimination. But once you walk out the interview door, or once your CV has landed on a Hiring Managers desk, nobody is around to stop them running a quick Google search, so be prepared. Use your common sense and stay in the running to land that job!

Part of my job here at Brightwater involves compiling a comprehensive Social Media Policy and best practices training so that both the company and our employees are protected, if they turn what they‘ve learned into their everyday lives and impart some of that thinking to their candidates, then I’ve done my job.

No matter what your thoughts are on this, it’s good to be realistic and prepared. First of all, you can remove expectations of the right to privacy. My outlook is that if the product is free, the users ARE the product. I’m OK with that to a certain extent – where else can I connect with family and friends home and abroad, keep up with the latest breaking news AND be entertained with hours and hours of hilarious videos, read articles that help me in my career and around the home (looking at you, Lifehacker tips)? I’ve upskilled AND found jobs there. It even tells me when my friends are having a birthday – all at no financial cost to me. I am mindful though, that the currency is my personal information. My details (age, employment, marital status and check ins on places around the world), give social networks cues that a fashion/travel/banking company is very interested in having.

So when does it become a problem? Issues arise when a search reveals something about you that a potential employer might not condone. If you enjoy a good debate, partying hard at the weekends or love snapping a selfie, you need to know that these can all affect how you are perceived. Even when you think you are in Private mode, you aren’t – anyone can take a screenshot at any time

What can you do? It’s hard not to get annoyed. In my opinion, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are where I go after knocking off a hard days work to look at beautiful things and on occasion, post photos of my travels and celebrations. Until things change it’s best to let common sense prevail especially when your dream job is at stake. Here’s a 5 point checklist to get you started, I’d love to hear what you have to add:

1) Email address slinkysoo@yahoo.com? Time to change to a more refined john.smith@yahoo.com
2) Is your page full of party pics? Best to hide them from the general public for the time being.
3) Turn off Linkedin notifications for following companies and updating your profile. This can be especially treacherous if you are in a difficult phase with your employers and are wary about being seen updating your skills and achievements.
4) Get a polished and professional profile and cover image.
5) Already on the job? Be respectful towards your employers brand and to others. Social media is a great way to raise awareness but it’s also a dreadful way to get drawn in to saying or doing something that you wouldn’t in real life.

4 years from when it was released, I still count this video as one of the most descriptive stories about the good, bad and ugly side to the power of social media and how it shapes perception.

Eileen Moloney is the Head of Marketing at Brightwater. Connect with her on LinkedIn.