Is your NetRep spoiling your employment chances?
It's a mistake being made by people the world over. That funny email name, those crazy photos you posted on Facebook or MySpace. They may have been intended for friends' eyes only but the truth is, they can be viewed by anyone who cares to look - and that includes prospective employers.
According to a recent survey on how your Internet reputation -- or NetRep -- affects career prospects, one in five employers have searched for personal information online about a prospective employee, with more than half saying it influenced their recruitment decision. One quarter of these net-savvy HR decision-makers admitted they had rejected applicants based on information they had found online.
Peter Cunningham, the country manager of Viadeo in Britain, the business networking site which commissioned the survey, is not surprised by the findings.
"When you are recruiting, there is still an element of risk," he said. "You have the CV, you meet them and ask for references but you want to make sure what you have seen is correct, so it's very cheap and easy to type someone's name into Google and see what comes up."
The problem, says Cunningham, is that so many people don't see the danger. "We all enjoy networking with our friends and family online but posting personal information for all to see on the internet also carries significant risks," he said. "Employers are never more than a few clicks away from your wild holiday photos or personal discussions with friends, which may end up having a huge impact on their recruitment decision."
Martin Nicholls, CEO of executive search and recruitment company Talent2 in Hong Kong, says the biggest problem is that people see social networking as fun.
"You have to be careful what you put out there about yourself and other people," he said. "You have to apply the same rule as you should with email: never write what you don't want the public to see."
His comments are backed up by a survey released last November by the British government's Information Commissioners Office (ICO) which said 60 percent of 14-21 year-olds interviewed were not aware that information posted on the Internet could be used by universities and potential employers to vet them. Seven out of 10 did not know the information could be viewed in future -- with many admitting it could be embarrassing.
"I think it is quite daunting as it could hinder my career choice," admitted a 19-year-old female, one of the 2,000 interviewed in the survey.
"It sort of scares me to think that what I've written at my age now (17) may come back to haunt me in later years," said another.
David Smith, deputy commissioner with the ICO, a group which helps people protect private information and access official information, said many young people didn't realize a "blog was for life" and were posting information online "without thinking about the electronic footprint they leave behind" and the effect it could have on their future.
Some shun the Internet
Not all recruiters are embracing the internet as a recruitment tool. Tricia Stevenson, regional head of marketing in Asia for recruitment company Hudson said they viewed the practice of checking out candidates on social networking sites as "questionable" because it was without the candidates' authorization.
Guy Day, managing director of Ambition, said his company preferred to rely on the traditional methods in selecting candidates such as reference checks and talking to former employers.
But Nicholls of Talent2, believes Google and networking sites do have a place to play in the recruitment process - especially when one considers studies which claim around 60 to 80 percent of candidates are believed to misrepresent something -- such as salary or qualifications -- on their resume.
"Obviously, as recruiters you have to take what you find (on the Internet) with a pinch of salt,' said Nicholls. "You have to recognize there is a lot of information that simply isn't true out there in the public domain. It could be defamatory, it could be plain inaccurate or it could be something put on a social networking site in jest."
"But our job is about taking the risk out of the hiring process for both the candidate and client," he added. "It (using the internet) is not the whole process and it never will be but it is definately a tool. You can do a good first background check and find out all sorts of things -- not always does the resume we have in front of us match the one in the public domain."
He says that there were quite a few cases when he was in Australia of very senior people who were found to have misrepresented their qualifications on their resumes: "It all comes out in the wash, and it might just be at the end of a Google search."
Expatica with DPA