Beware of Online Activity: Prospective Employers May Be Watching

Online activity, even if it's quite innocent and totally harmless, can attract negative attention from prospective employers.

Types of online activity where you should watch your behavior

The classic cases of online issues with employers or prospective employers result from the use of the big social sites.

This is how you can sabotage yourself with a prospective employer:

  1. You're a professional.
  2. You're on a social site with a group of people in your profession.
  3. There's a forum issue, some sort of heated debate.
  4. You get involved in the debate.
  5. The debate degenerates into very negative, hostile slanging.
  6. The person you're arguing with turns out to be the person managing the job you've just applied for, or the person culling the applications.

It does happen. Even if you use a pseudonym online, nobody's truly anonymous, if someone wants to check. You may have provided enough information on your profile to identify you, even without a name.

The natural association of the social site group will bring you into contact with a lot of other people in your areas of interest. People get jobs this way, but they can also lose them, sometimes before they even apply.

Online activity to avoid at all costs

The very bad, very stupid, habit of badmouthing employers online has attracted a lot of interest from just about all employers. They don't necessarily go hunting for people who are being "clever" at their expense, but they will go looking for mentions of their business or their own names. It's hardly surprising that employers don't much like the sort of people who spend so much time and effort abusing them, or other employers.

Note: In terms of finding information about someone on any social site, this is practically a "gimme" for even a mildly curious employer. It's a spectacularly dumb thing to do in any online environment. They're definitely going to find out about it, if they do a search, or even just browse for a while.

The single most basic rule about any conflict with an employer is "Don't run them down in front of other employers". The geniuses on the big forums don't simply run them down, they broadcast it to the world.

Just don't do it, ever.

How to lose a new job without even trying

Never be casual about your public image online. The scenario is that you've done the interview, you're the preferred candidate.

This could be called "Certain death for a job application in three stages":

  1. The employer does a search checks up your website, sees all your good work. 
  2. Then  the employer sees your online profile, which is of a completely different person to the highly professional individual they were just about to recommend for the job.
  3. You may or may not win an Oscar for your interview performance, but forget about getting the job. Such a huge difference in personal image doesn't exactly encourage employers. The impression created by this Jekyll and Hyde persona is that you're way too good at providing a false image of yourself. Think about any instance where you've found someone putting on an act at your expense, and you'll see how the employer views the issue.