Feature: Public Information, Public Examination

Feature: Public Information, Public Examination

Feature: Public Information, Public Examination

It was hard to miss Lindsay Lohan’s very public and sad self-destruction last week. More excessive drinking and bizarre behavior, all captured on the evening news for any and everyone to see. What does that have to do with looking for a job? Early reports are that Lindsay’s actions are likely to put a crimp in her film career and may even end it forever. It costs tens of millions of dollars to make a commercial film, and there’s not a producer on earth who would risk such an investment on an out-of-control employee.

And sadly, that reality holds an important lesson for many of us, but especially for those who are just starting out on their careers. The pictures and commentary posted on such social networking sites as MySpace and Facebook are just as visible and just as open to the public as Lindsay’s wild SUV ride last week. Those who have portrayed themselves as prone to excessive and/or bizarre behavior, complete with graphic photos and obscene commentary, are offering the same kind of evidence that they too may be out-of-control, even dangerous employees. And, they should expect the same reaction from employers. They are likely to see their careers evaporate as employers see them as too risky to hire.

But wait a minute, those descriptions of your “wild thing” persona are posted on your own, private page online, so how can employers use that information against you? There are several appropriate answers to that question:

  • First, information posted on social networking sites is, by definition, in the public domain. It’s available to anyone in society who has Internet access, and that’s virtually every employer, public and private, small as well as large. In other words, this information is not like your credit report, civil court record and employment references. Those data are private and not available to the general public, so an employer must get your permission, in writing, to access them. What you post on a social networking site, on the other hand, is a portrait of you that is just as public as the news reports about Lindsay’s partying.
  • Second, recruiters have a fiduciary responsibility to check all available data about a person who is being considered for employment. The dictionary defines a fiduciary as “A person to whom power or property is entrusted for the benefit of another.” In this case, an employer has entrusted the recruiter with the responsibility of ensuring that any person who is hired by the organization is who they say they are and will not either be a danger to themselves or others or impede the good order and performance of the organization. Therefore, if a recruiter fails to check information you have posted about yourself in the public domain, they are failing to do their job, and that means they’re putting their own career at risk.
  • Third, in today’s litigious world, employers expose themselves to civil and even criminal penalties if they fail to evaluate a person fully before hiring them. We’ve all seen the news reports about employees who rampage through offices firing weapons and killing coworkers and others who harm innocent bystanders while driving under the influence on a business trip. The victims of such tragedies have every right to ask if the employer could have prevented the situation by doing a better job of checking the information that’s available about a prospective hire. And when the employer fails to do so, the fines are steep and the damage done to its reputation is long-lasting. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that employers today are leaving no rock unturned-including those on the information superhighway-when they assess employment candidates.
  • So, how do you evaluate the pictures and information you’ve posted about yourself online? Simple. Put yourself in the shoes of an employer. That organization must have a license to operate in the city or state where it’s located, and it must conduct its business according to established laws, regulations and social norms. Given those responsibilities, ask yourself if it’s likely the organization would see you as a valuable prospective employee or a potential risk, based on what they can see on your MySpace or Facebook profile. If it’s the former, leave what you have up as it is likely to help round out the employer’s assessment of you as an employment candidate. If, on the other hand, it’s the latter-if your public, online profile paints you as a Lindsay Lohan without the paparazzi-change your profile immediately. (You might also want to evaluate the costs and benefits of the behavior, itself.)

    Adjusting your online profile isn’t enough, however. Whether it’s fair or not, there are lingering consequences to what you post online. Much of the information that appears in public sites is copied by one or more other sites using software agents over which you have no control and, often, about which you have no knowledge. For example, the Wayback Machine at Archive.org has copies of Web pages as far back as 1996. So, the embarrassing pictures or unfortunate remarks you posted on a social networking site two years ago may still be out there on the Web a decade from now, even if you removed them from the site where you originally posted them.

    What should you do? Here are my suggestions:

  • Strut the good stuff. Replace the less than flattering information you’ve taken down from your social networking site with material that will highlight your best attributes. Will that diminish your social standing? It shouldn’t; even the party animals are likely to be impressed, and as long as the new information is true, it may also counteract anything else a prospective employer might find online.
  • Hire a helper. Sites such as Naymz.com and ReputationDefender.com enable you to monitor any information about you that appears online and either delete it or post your own more accurate or alternative version for employers to consider. These services are by no means foolproof, but they are increasingly used by recruiters who want to ensure that they are getting the whole story when they look for information about candidates on the Web.
  • Be ready to discuss it. Although there is no guarantee that a recruiter will discuss the personal information they find online with you, it’s important to be ready to do so, just in case. If they uncover embarrassing posts that you have since removed and tried to rectify with the steps above, you’ll have a good story to tell: you’re a proactive person who learns from their experiences. And, that may be just the kind of person they would like to hire.
  • Thanks for reading,


    P.S. Remember what you learned in kindergarten: It’s nice to share. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!

    P.S.S. Don’t forget to send us your new e-mail address if you move. Lots of people are changing jobs these days, and we want to be sure you still have the information in WEDDLE’s to help you perform at your peak. All you have to do to keep your WEDDLE’s newsletter coming is send your change of address to pwj@weddles.com.

    Section Two: Site News You Can Use

    TheLadders.com published the results of a survey exploring the vacation plans of senior level workers. Contrary to a number of previous polls, it found that almost eight-in-ten (78.9%) of the respondents intend to take a vacation this year. Assuming those plans actually turn into reality, these results could mark a turning point in worker-employer relations. Employers, today, are facing a War for the Best Talent, a situation that shifts the center of power toward those workers who possess rare skills and are exceptional performers. Indeed, in TheLadders survey, an astonishing 75.4% of the respondents said they did not fear their vacations would put them in jeopardy on-the-job-a far cry from the prevailing view just a year ago-and over half (58.6%) said their employers were supportive of their taking time off. Whether your employer recognizes it or not, you do your best work when you have sufficient rest and recuperation. It’s your responsibility, however, to ensure you get it. Preserve and protect the health of your career by performing at your peak on-the-job and by taking a break periodically to recharge your energy and enthusiasm. If your current employer demands the performance but rejects the recuperative rest, find another employer; there are plenty out there looking for good talent.

    LRN, a consulting firm that specializes in corporate ethics and compliance issues, released the results of its recent analysis of the ethical climate in corporate America. It found that almost three-out-of-four (73%) U.S. workers had observed ethical misconduct at work. The good news is that an overwhelming majority did something about it. Better than nine-out-of-ten (91%) of the respondents either talked to the person(s) involved or reported the situation to management. While we aren’t the ethics police for our employers, it is important that we not simply stand on the sidelines and let such behavior go unchecked. Why? Because it undermines the esprit and performance of the organizations for which we work and, as a result, it threatens our careers, as well.

    MepatWork.com has renamed itself MEP Jobs. The site offers a job board and resume database for professionals in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing industries. It is a Member of the International Association of Employment Web Sites, the trade organization for job boards, and thus adheres to the Association’s Code of Ethics which provides for the protection of any information you provide to the site.

    Yahoo! Answers offers tips on the best time to buy something or take a specific action. Need a plane ticket cheap? Shop on Wednesday mornings as that’s when the price competition among airlines tends to reach its peak. Want to drive a new car? Shop on Monday as that’s when foot traffic is so low you’ll be in the driver’s seat. Want to work at a part time restaurant job? April and May are the best times to look as that’s when restaurants gear up for summer traffic. Want to start a full time job after a baby is born? Start looking for an opportunity before the little bundle of joy arrives. Answers are provided by other site visitors, so you’ll have to assess their validity carefully, but aside from the occasional unpleasant response, the feature is an effective way to learn what others have learned … without their scrapped knees and bruised elbows.

    WEDDLE’s announced the availability of its special primer on the secrets of conducting a successful job search using the Internet. There are literally hundreds of techniques for finding a new or better job online, but many are inefficient and ineffective. How can you make sure you use the best of the Web?

  • First, you have to figure out which techniques work best.
  • And second, you have to know how to put those techniques to work for you.
  • WEDDLE’s WIZNotes: Finding a Job on the Web provides exactly that information and helps you chart a course to success on the Internet! It’s a complete online job search campaign in a book. It covers everything you need-from using job agents and uncovering interview questions in advance to finding new and former contacts through online networking-to put the Internet to work for you. The book is short and to the point. It’s written for busy people who don’t have time to waste, but want to know-and use-the secrets to success in an online job search. To learn more and order WIZNotes: Finding a Job on the Web, please click on the appropriate link to your left or call 317.916.9424. Order today!

    Section Three: Site Profiles

    Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guides and Directories

    There are 40,000 job boards now in operation in North America and an equal number operating elsewhere around the world. The key to a successful job search online, therefore, is knowing where to find and how to select the sites that will work best for you. WEDDLE’s 2007/8 Guide identifies 350 of the top sites worldwide and provides the information you need to determine which job boards will connect you with the openings that might just be your dream job. For example:

    The Write Jobs


    Post full time jobs: Yes

    Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes-All

    Distribution of jobs: National-USA

    Number of jobs: 50

    Salary levels of jobs: $31-50K/year, $51-75K/year

    Offer a job agent: No

    Resume database: No

    How long are resumes stored: N/A

    Restrictions on who can post: N/A

    Other services for job seekers: Career information, Links to other sites with job search/career resources

    Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: No