How Much of what You Post Online is Really Private? Should You be Concerned what is “Out There” About You? The answer? A Resounding YES!
Despite privacy settings, probably very little of what you post online is truly private. Do you know what your friends or “online acquaintances” are posting or sharing online about you?
Hot topics in the news right now are the use of information found on Social Media platforms by Employers during the Hiring Process and in Dictating Employee Conduct. The questions revolve around how much of what is found on social media posts can be used to either make employment decisions or be used to contain existing employee’s online behavior.
In the first of this two part series, I will discuss how Social Media posts, pictures, etc. are used during the hiring process. Many times it is not part of the “formal” background check investigation, but is often an added “tool” by the hiring company or background check investigator for getting a clearer picture of the applicant.
Most employers or their agents run an applicant’s name through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. to see what is “out there”. For this reason, I recommend any job seeker do a Background Check on themselves prior to putting out that first application (read my earlier blog post on this topic here).
What most companies do not do, and definitely should not do, is request an applicant’s passwords to access those accounts. Checking to see what is readily available to the public on those platforms is a far cry from asking for passwords to do so. As an employer, it is not wise to attempt to gain this information from anyone.
While a bill was introduced at the federal level last April (H.R. 5050) to make it illegal for employers to request passwords from potential or existing employees, it did not have enough steam and was sent back to the committee level.
However, since then some states have enacted their own laws to prohibit the request of passwords (and I predict many more will follow suit). It is a clear invasion of privacy to ever request this type of personal information. If you would like more information on this click here.
Despite regulations governing the requesting of passwords, applicants and employees still need to be mindful of what they post. It goes without saying that your sites should be set to private. However, it would still be in your best interests to refrain from posting anything that could be seen in a negative or controversial way.
Social network posts, comments, and pictures by either you or others may reveal information about you that you might not want a potential employer to know. The truth is, potential employers often use whatever information they can obtain to help them make a hiring decision. It is important that you know what information can be seen by those not even in “your circle” and to think about what kind of conclusions might be drawn from it.
Your best course of action is to imagine anything you post could possibly be seen by a wide variety of people - your family, friends, neighbors, teachers, employers, and even those that are strangers to you. Using that as a guide, do you still want to share that post? Asking yourself that question BEFORE you share is the wise way to go.
Your posts may also open you up to potential discrimination by employers. You need to evaluate whether you reveal things such as your sexual orientation, political views, or any groups affiliations that could be held against you.
While there are existing laws designed to prevent discrimination based on things such as age, race, gender, and disabilities; the laws are just beginning to address the other issues I mentioned above. It also important to understand that the individuals responsible for screening potential hires are human. Once they see things, they cannot be unseen.
Another thing you need to consider is whether you have shared any negative posts about your current or former employer. Many times this can also have a negative impact on your chances of getting a job offer.
Now lets look at the reverse, how using Social Media correctly can actually HELP you find a job or get a promotion. Since you know that your social media posts and profiles will most likely be seen as part of the hiring process, why not use that to your advantage?
When setting up your profile, make sure you present yourself in a good light. Highlight your education, professional accomplishments, charity work, and volunteer activities. Creating a page that shows you are an interesting and accomplished individual can help you land that job.
It is not all about bragging or showing off. Employers like well-rounded people. If your posts and profiles reveal a person who likes to be involved, stays active in your community, and is generally interested and interesting, you will stand out beyond your resume.
The key take away here is to be aware. You need to know what your Social Media presence says about you. Is it a picture you want to paint?
Think twice about what you post and remember, it is best to assume that nothing on the internet is ever really private and may be used against you!