We live in a social media obsessed world. There’s Facebook, Myspace, (although I wonder if anyone actually still uses it), Twitter, and many blogging platforms such as Tumblr, WordPress, and Blogger. Although we upload our pictures to Flickr and Facebook all the time or write about our weekend experiences in personal blogs, there could be a possible downside to all of this internet exposure: According to the Wall Street Journal, 85% of hiring managers Google a candidate before or after an interview. This fact, which is becoming more and more well-known, brings up the question: To blog or not to blog?
While I’m not saying that anyone who publicly posts pictures of themselves puking into a fraternity bathroom shouldn’t be a cause for concern, I am posing the question of boundaries and what and when a company should base their decision on hiring someone because of what comes up when they use Google. For example, take all the CollegeCandy contributors. Should our future bosses decline an interview with us, even though our resumes may be well qualified, simply because we once wrote an article that mentions sex or highlights the importance of birth control?
Personally, I think keeping a blog of any kind is a worthwhile venture. As a writer, I like to post things I’m interested in, things that drive me crazy, and of course, continuously write about things that matter to me (this includes everything from literary theory criticisms to the correct usage of the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s infamous phrase “prostitution whore”). However, I often worry that if I post liberal-sided articles or a picture of me enjoying a glass of wine that someone may use those things against me and blow them out of proportion one day. Despite more and more social media outlets being introduced to society on a regular basis, it seems like the idea of censorship or hiding oneself (at least the internet brand of oneself) is becoming a constant battle.
But get this – the Wall Street Journal also reports that “Recruiters and employers…routinely do online background searches on their candidates to learn more about them, as well as to filter out candidates with little or negative information about them.” So basically, it seems like our generation is damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
Imagine if you have nothing come up when your future employer Googles you. Instead of them rewarding you for that (something more and more colleges and media-outlets tell us to strive for), they pass on you because you aren’t relevant or important enough. But then, if you have an author’s page or Twitter account, something could be taken out of context or perceived as negative. What about people that disagree with this article? Could my future employer one day decline to hire me because some random commenter disagreed with me – putting me in a negative position?
It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s something that constantly comes up in the world of online writing and social media. While I understand why businesses want to search their job candidates, I think some kind of line in the sand needs to be drawn before too many well-deserving candidates are overlooked simply because they blog about Christian Louboutin’s, OPI nail polish, and Rachel Zoe instead of Wall Street, international trade, and compounding interest.
The issue of ‘to blog or not’ seems to constantly rely on personal judgment. However, personal judgment works both ways. For example, if someone is irresponsible enough to post a picture of themselves humping (see – because I used the word humping in this post, I may possibly never get a real job) a stop sign, they acted in poor judgment. Although they may personally have found it funny and did not make the picture private, their actions overwhelmingly were not in the best of judgment.
But think of it this way – what if your potential employer’s personal judgment doesn’t like your Tweet about his/her favorite restaurant, and decides that you come across as too opinionated because you simply wrote “Will not be eating at Restaurant A again.” Their personal judgment could cost you a good opportunity. The bottom line is that not everyone uses the best personal judgment from time to time (including those in hiring positions), and what one person finds offensive may not be a big deal to someone else. Should our generation have to walk on eggshells so we don’t piss anyone off with our opinions and views on the internet? Is this what it’s coming down to?
Blogger Emily Rose, a recent college graduate wrote a ballsy open post to a potential future employer on her Tumblr, after accidentally sending her blog link in her e-mail signature. Instead of cowering in fear over whether or not her employer would show no interest in her because of her personal interests explored on her blog (such as hung-over day after snap shots and mojito cupcakes), Emily wrote: “You’ll probably learn more about me from this blog than you did from my CV, which is fine. You’ve probably figured out some stuff already: like that I love animals and Africa and my family. But also, you know, sometimes I drink. And I spend a lot of time online….the result of those factors is now what’s on your monitor, and I don’t feel compelled to apologize for any of it.”
While some people may be completely appalled that she would be so open about herself like that, I think Emily is onto something. If we can’t be our true selves or represent things about ourselves in a personal manner, even in a public way such as the internet, then what does that say about society today? In conclusion of her post, Emily hits the nail on the head by writing, “I think I’m a good hire. I think I’m a good person, too. And I don’t think typing bad words or posting a picture of myself with friends at a bar blowing off some steam should affect my chances just because I’m a young person, and the lives of young people are more public and accessible than those of our parents.”
All in all, interviews, resumes, recommendations, and qualifications should remain as the most important factors in getting hired or rejected. But instead of using personal media against this generation, maybe it should be looked at a different way. With our generation riding the first wave of this Google exposure (or shall we call it overexposure?) phenomenon, it will be interesting to see what pans out. Ultimately though, I hope for the sake of our generation – we’re not looked at like this forever. Employers, writers, job applicants, and social media users of all kinds should embrace the more public and accessible use of information today, or at least set some boundaries for the years and technological advancements to come.