Internet Background Check
Recently, a client asked me to check the references for a candidate. I asked my client if they would prefer a written reference check or one performed by phone. Imagine my surprise when my client informed me that “We don’t believe in that kind of reference check”. If I wasn’t supposed to check the candidate’s references via phone or in writing, then how was I to do it? Simple answer: The Internet. My client instructed me to perform a background check by thoroughly searching the World Wide Web for any and all information I could produce about the candidate. Upon conducting my research, I was to put together a full report detailing all the dirt I found and present it to my client. Scary, right?
The term “background check” has taken on a whole new meaning in the Internet Age. No longer do employers solely make phone calls to your previous supervisors to check references. Rather, they scour the pages of your online profiles looking for any information that will tell them more about how you spend your time, both at work and in your personal life. Social media can tell your potential employers an awful lot about you. And it’s not always the good stuff. So, how do you ensure that the person represented by your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other online accounts is the person your potential employer would be thrilled to hire?
They Know How You Spend Your Work Day
If you paint a professional picture of yourself as a diligent worker capable of churning out 50 memos a day, you better make sure your Internet activity projects the same image. Recruiters are not only able to find out that you’ve cultivated the perfect vegetable patch on Farmville but that most of your farming is done during your 9 to 5. If you think an Internet background check can’t tell your potential employers how you spend your work day, think again. Refrain from checking and posting social media, writing in your personal blog, or playing online games during your regular work hours.
Pictures Made Public
You’re an adult. You can go to a bar without a fake ID. So, what does it matter if your Facebook profile picture shows you downing a shot of tequila? It matters a lot. Your future employers don’t know anything about your personal life other than through the pictures you make public, and, as they say, a picture paints a 1000 words. When they see the pictures from last night’s party or of your Spring Break 2010 trip to Cancun, they’re likely to form a less than flattering opinion of you as a hard partier rather than a hard worker. Make sure to keep all potentially damaging pictures visible to only your close Facebook friends. Alternatively, you can remove all questionable pictures and save them to a folder on your personal computer instead.
If Your Name’s On It, They Will Find It
When a recruiter sets out to discover all he or she can about you, I can guarantee they’ll do exactly that – if it’s on the Internet, it can be found. This is especially true if your name or contact information is openly associated with the material. If you maintain a blog or any social commentary outside of work and what you write could be deemed controversial, make sure your account is run from an email address different to one provided on your resume or job application. Also remember that any comment you make publicly on the Internet reflects on you, and if you’re hired, your company.
You just turned 23 and you’ve just started your first “real” job. You’re still young and you’re confident the whole work world is your career oyster. What does it matter if a background check unearths some inappropriate pictures from Saturday night? You have plenty of time to worry about that later! Yet, you don’t. Recruiters performing background checks now are just as important as those who will be running them in 10 years’ time. You may not care much about background checks, those pictures, and your basement cubicle now, but you will when you’re vying for the corner office on the top floor.
Once pictures, videos, or any personal files are shared on the Internet, they’re there for life. After you delete your Facebook photo album of your 21st birthday shenanigans from your account, recruiters can still find it. After you remove all those keg stand videos from Vine, recruiters can still find them.Always think twice before posting personal information in whatever form to the Internet. Once it’s there, it’s much harder to remove than you might think.