Inadvertent Online Resumes Losing People More Job Opportunities

from the your-permanent-record dept

We’ve covered in the past how recruiters are now looking at online social network pages to determine whether or not someone is qualified for a job. While stories about government agencies using the Patriot Act to view your private Facebook profile for a job interview are completely bogus, it is quite likely that whoever is interviewing you knows a bit more about you than what’s on that paper resume. Considering your digital record as your “inadvertent resume.” In fact, a growing number of recruiters have admitted that they’ve eliminated job candidates, based on the “digital dirt” that was found about them. Of course, that could be problematic if you happen to have a name in common with someone who has done a lot of bad things online. Still, people need to be more aware of what their online record says about them. Someone recently told me that they were trying to recruit for a job opening, and he planned to find candidates not by advertising the job itself, but by putting together a list of bloggers who had a certain four or five blogs listed in their blogroll (Techdirt was one, apparently) — allowing him to pre-qualify candidates who might fit the job he was trying to fill without calling for resumes. So, even when you’re not officially looking for jobs, your online presence can be important.

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Comments on “Inadvertent Online Resumes Losing People More Job Opportunities”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Talking of pricks..

If you are “looking at online social network pages to determine whether or not someone is qualified for a job” you are not qualified to do yours.

One of the great modern impediments to good business and a healthy employment economy are the pricks you’ll find in a typical HR department.

There’s something very creepy and disturbing about people who describe themselves as “people people” and are unqualified to do anything else in life except spout prejorative opinions about other peoples value.

Mousky says:

So, even when you’re not officially looking for jobs, your online presence can be important.

But should that online presence even play a role in ‘qualifying’ a person for a job? I can understand if the job involved something of an online nature, but non-online jobs? Seems to me that employers want employes that tow the line and do not think for themselves.

Myself says:

HR is the source of incompetence, yes..

I’ve been saying this for years: The incompetent idiots you deal with on a daily basis are there because an HR person put them there. When an employee misbehaves or pisses off a customer, blame never falls to the hiring manager, so that manager remains in place to hire more idiots. The system has no self-correcting mechanism, so it spirals out of control: HR departments breed incompetence, and catapult the Peter Principle to phenomenal levels.

Now as to the point of the article: I’m rather proud of my online history, having just gone back and read a large number of my Usenet postings from ten years ago. I made a few newbie mistakes, but I also made good points, raised interesting questions, answered thoughtfully and thoroughly when I could, and kept a sense of respect and humor at all times. If an employer were to find that, I don’t think they’d come away with a diminished opinion of me.

The point is pretty clear: Make an easy-to-find online persona, using your real name and the email that appears on your resume, and conduct yourself impeccably. If you feel the need to behave in other ways, do so under a completely disconnected pseudonym.

How to manage friendships that straddle both identities is left as an exercise to the reader.

Mousky says:

Re: HR is the source of incompetence, yes..

Your analysis of HR Departments is dead on. At my workplace, to avoid ‘discrimination’ and ensure ‘fairness and consistency’, a person from HR attends every job interview. They ask questions and score potential employees. How can they do this when they have no idea about the job or field of work? Because they are given keywords. Mention the keywords in your response and you get points. Who cares about your ability to think, your knowledge, your ideas and points-of-view, your experience, so long as you hit the most keywords, you are in.

Jimmy Daniels (user link) says:

HR and upper management

Are always to blame, the most qualified people are the people who are actually doing the job, let them sit in on interviews and let them ask them the hard questions that need to be asked, you’ll never regret it. And any moron who doesn’t call someone back because of something he found on the internet, shouldn’t be in that kind of position, what would it hurt to call the person applying for the job and ask, hey is this you?

Sanguine Dream says:

What a world we live...

In about 5 years all job applications will have a section to list all the websites you visit on a regular basis and the screename you post with.

Why is it that people insist on trying to find that one magic tell all about a person? I know people that dress like Marilyn Manson (sp?) but are respectful, calm, and very well mannered. By the same token I know people that dress like movie stars and are just as two-faced and fake as the characters said movie stars play.

How can anyone honestly believe that someone’s online persona WILL ALWAYS be a fullly accurate representation of how they are offline. There’s no way to prove it

Besides if good appearance = good reputation then lawyers would not be synonomous with well paid liar.

The point is pretty clear: Make an easy-to-find online persona, using your real name and the email that appears on your resume, and conduct yourself impeccably. If you feel the need to behave in other ways, do so under a completely disconnected pseudonym.

The only problem with that is its possible to have a common name with someone of questionable habits. All that would do is open you to have your good repution “borrowed” by someone of ill repute. I personally keep my online and offline lives a seperate as possible. And my job (or prospective jobs) would be the las place I’d give my online info to.

Christopher says:

I get about 2 job offers a week...

I make quite a few posts to online bulletin boards and the like, all under one common pseudonym. As it happens, I get about 2 people per week interested in hiring me. The only trouble is that while it is quite clear from many of my posts that I really know my stuff, and that I own and manage a small technology consulting firm, the people contacting me seem to think I would be interested in taking some $24k p.a. level 1 help desk job. And they are often aggressive in their recruitment efforts.

Dam says:

This Can Work The Other Way Too

Anyone who goes online with their real name is a boob, IMO, but searching for info about employers is now a lot easier too.

I recently interviewed with a business that does 99% of its sales on Ebay. While their feedback score was high, a Google search turned up several interesting tidbits like how they’re being sued for trademark infringement. When I asked the CEO about this, he dismissed it as frivolous. I’m certain my asking may have contributed to my not being offered the job, but why shouldn’t I ask? For all I know they might lose and I’d be out of a job in a year or two.

chris (profile) says:

almost all business decisions are made at random

there are a hundred and one reasons for you to not get a job and all of them are way beyond your control. maybe you answered the questions wrong, maybe your attitude was wrong, maybe you were the wrong race or gender, maybe they intended to hire someone internally and held external interviews as a formality (or vice versa).

so, be as cordial and as friendly as you can while still being honest, and if you aren’t a good fit with their “culture” then find solace in the fact that you probably would have been miserable there if you had gotten the job under false pretenses.

rijit (profile) says:

heh, but then again

If you show yourself to be an ass online, you are probably an ass in real life too. Something along those lines is what most hiring managers think. After being online for the past decade, I am not so sure they are wrong.

I think it is a bit unethical for a company to just use social network sites as a resume unless they ask for your information up front. After all, I know there are 23 people in my state with my name online according to Google, 12 of those have the same middle name, and there are 7 of them on My Space, one of them even lives in my town. Meaning, if I ever decide to go back to work I might have to explain things to company since 2 of those listed on My Space are real winners who do and say some stupid things.

Why check, you ask? Well I got some bad comments and such about things I supposedly said and supposedly did so I wanted to find out what was going on. Turned out one of the losers from My Space was perceived as being me.

PricklyPrankster says:

How to create jobs!!!!

I live here in the Midwest region–Southeast Michigan in particular. In this region, jobs are very scarces. Since many dim-witted HR department heads are too lazy to interview, instead use to weed out future employees, here’s my suggest to create jobs. Make a despiccable, facebook, etc. of all your classmates, former co-workers of layoff-land,and anyone who has a tip on a good job(make sure you get their full name).

Once you’ve created bad info for the aforementioned then create a gleaming myspace for yourself, ensuring that you include the space exploration and ideas for creating cheap gasoline in your content. Any HR head would be wrong not to hire you. YOU JUST LANDED A BIG ONE–THANK YOU MYSPACE!!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Most of you guys are working from the assumption that it is not rational to assume things about offline personas from online ones.

This is correct. Give the rest of the world a chance to catch up.

At the same time, we know that you can truly develop understanding with someone and make useful online relationships. The rest of the world doesn’t understand that.

So which is it? Are they related or not? Basically the bottom line is they just don’t understand. But they will. Expecting them to already would be nutty.

Sociologists observe that we have–and need–backstage personalities, people with whom we can let our guard down to give us relief from those for whom we perform. The assumption that someone’s backstage behavior necessarily implies anything about their onstage performance is an unfortunately frequent mark of social unsophistication.

The problem with the internet is that both backstage and onstage personalities are in the same space. We respond by developing a more mature attitude where it is considered polite to ignore or discount someone’s activities in a space that is none of your business, unless you are seeking to make it your business. Those who have not acquired this skill cannot, again, be expected to understand.

Obvious Man says:

I agree with #4

On both counts, but especially the 2nd. By making yourself known online in a very respectable fashion, you effectively provide a way to be trusted; so long as you accurately maintain your perspective, integrity, and dignity (*cough*, especially one’s dignity…) then you have nothing to fear – a long-time online persona that shows enough well-thought posts on a webjournal means you can be more and more certain as more posts by this person accumulate of what this person stands for and what they care about – obviously there’s no real way of telling about many character issues/flaws, but often you get enough of a person (over a long-enough time period) that all you need to know about hiring or firing is in some number of posts, but my guess is that it’s significantly less than a year’s worth of blogging.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I agree with #4

When making hiring decisions, I don’t really care what political slant they have, what they think of “the issues”, or who/what their significant other is. Spending any time at all going through a year-old blog is just a ridiculous waste of time.

The HR people admitting to wasting company time doing this should be out there looking for work themselves.

Obvious Man says:

Other uses

If you blog about many of your activities in the day, these activities can be verified by others; it provides a statement of where you were and what you were doing at X time of day, and who to call to verify that statement, from a court of law. It’s a nice way to maintain your credibility and your innocence from your belief system, even if you were to delete your blog after a few years of blogging, it can still be recovered by the wayback machine or a number of other web archiving services. It’s a place to show off your programming, scripting, and templating skills, your artwork, your music, your résumé – essentially any form of portfolio. But to boost your ego or create a community, you’re better off joining one, statistically-speaking. Few people will post on your site if you don’t post on theirs, and it’s a dumb and time-consuming thing to post many and review those of other people, just for comments – but a few interesting individuals do post, and should you enjoy reading their blog, then what’s so bad? If you’ve got something interesting to say, then even that can be used as a way to market your abilities on a blog, first and foremost! It’s like yesterday’s google quote of the day by Dorothy Neville- “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” Replace “conversation” with “blogging” and you’ve got it. That’s all you need to make your blog safe for employers to view.

Dan Barrett says:


When a person posts online, in the Freudian perspective at least, they are exhibiting their ego or an image of their ego that ‘they’ want to exhibit to the online community. If they can be linked, of course a dilligent HR person will link the 2 aspects together. Of course the WWW is young compared to the history of human civilisation, but isn’t it only another social web that adds to the inevitable ones that have been around since animals began communicating among each other and different groups? We as a humans have to be responsible individually in these aspects to make this new communication tool really useful to us. Why use this space as a fantasy world when this really can be a low cost tool where we can link individuals across the WORLD?

Plus we (most of us online junkies) know that down to the most basic levels, everything can be tracked online. Don’t be a fool and think otherwise.

IOW, don’t post or write on a medium where you don’t know the consequences of stuff. Whatever happened to keeping the asinine moments between you and your friends?

Anonymous Coward says:

I found AC #20 and Dan Barrets comments most interesting here.

Yes, clearly most people do not have an understanding of the complexity of personality and its manifestations as character and persona in different roles and settings.

Traditionally people have kept a strong separation between those “performed” and “uninhibited” states. Such is the basis for the “social farce” form of comedy. The problem is not that these spaces are merging, but, as so many seem to agree, that the psychologically unqualified dimwits inhabiting HR departments can’t correctly infer useful (more to the point relevant)information about people by by taking a random sample of their statements.

They probably “feel clever” by checking up on people behind their backs, and I use that prejorative term with intent – behind their backs meaning without permission and in an underhand way, because lets not pretend they are being fully honest. What they fail to realise is that this information is misleading in a quite profound way.

There is an old English saying. “A spy never hears good of themself”

What this means is that those who engage in dirt digging, covert surveillance, and generally grubbing about the corners of other peoples lives, usually find out unpleasant things. What they find is a reflection of their own unpleasantness. Their subconscious guides their expectations, and because most people in HR are trying to eliminate candidates they are, even without knowing it consiously, looking for bad things.

The sad ironies underlying it all are threefold.

  • 1) In 99.99% of cases the best way to get the information is just to ask! Most people respond honestly to a simple polite question unless they are hiding something criminal or that they are deeply ashamed of. Most people have nothing they are ashamed of that has any relevance whatsoever to their capacity as an empoyee in any profession (other than intelligence where blackmail must be guarded against). The simple honest answer may well turn out to be “none of your business” – an answer I’ve given myself on more than one occasion in interviews which turned out to be sucessful – obviously that answer can command much respect when delivered politely.
  • 2) Most of their own close colleagues, bosses and friends probably have far worse stuff to hide that would be extremely damaging to work relationships if brought up. Those engaged in the snooping would be angry if they were handed a dossier on a member of their own family containing hearsay and unsubstantiated publications by people assumed to be the same individual. The would be even madder if such information about themselves was published within their workplace – they may even have legal grounds to press for defamation or harassment.
  • 3) It’s hard to know exactly what these people are trying to guard against, probably the usual dull mediocre prejudices of race, sexuality, religion, drug consumption etc… the standard bollocks you’d expect from narrow minded corporate imperial probe droids, but let’s consider a more sinister class of rogue employee, industrial spies, sabateurs and so on. Unsolicited online research is a certain way to be taken into the trap of an intelligence professional that’s targeted your company, because miraculously everything you turn up will be just hunky dory, exactly the way it was meticulously planned and planted to be. As other posters have said, creating a spotless online identity for nefarious purposes is always going to be easy.

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