Background Checks Now Include Twitter, Facebook and more

More and more employers are checking the social media profiles and posts of potential hires.

Any post or group that could be taken out of context, or construed to make you out as “somebody who likes a racist joke, drinks too much booze or maybe is a bit too fond of guns” can be grounds for an employer to pull your application, according to this recent ABCNews article states. And it’s all legal.

“The Federal Trade Commission has just given the okay for Social Intelligence Corp. to sell these reports to employers and the file will last for seven long years,” the article states.

Even if your profiles are squeaky clean and you actively manage your public information, consider your friends. ” It’s still possible that among your Facebook friends, unbeknownst to you, there’s someone with a criminal record,” the article continues. “An employer could turn you down for having iffy friends and not run afoul of any employment discrimination law.”

Potential employers aren’t getting this information by friending or following you. Often they are outsourcing their research to companies like Social Intelligence Corp. or checking in with friends of your friends to see what you may have hidden. Remember, there is a huge difference between a photo album on your shelf at home and one online, even “protected.” Some employers are going so far as to require potential employees share their usernames and passwords. Whether or not you choose to share this information depends on the position, your personal opinions and how much you want to work for that employer. Before you log in, in front of your future HR Manager or boss, consider this, do you really want to work for someone who would ask you to do that?

While slightly outdated, this CareerBuilder article from earlier this year includes information on how many employers search social media profiles as part of a background check.

The only way to really protect yourself is to be mindful of what you post in the first place. Be sure to check your history for inaccuracies, strange settings, old comments. Ask yourself, out of context does anything seem strange? Make it a habit to check this once a month, when you Google yourself.

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Pay it Forward

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I recently had the opportunity to talk with Erin Serkaian, who works at another non-profit about how my organization uses social media. The conversation was wonderful and very beneficial for both of us!

Back when I started dabbling in social media, lots of friends, colleagues and strangers offered their advice and best tips and general practices. Some of these conversations happened on Twitter and others happened in person. I would not have the knowledge base I have today or the confidence in my ability to do my job if it weren’t for these mentors. Thank you, again.

When I saw Erin’s request on Twitter for ways non-profits use Facebook and other social media platforms, I knew it was my opportunity to give back. I sent a message and in a short time, we arranged to have a phone conversation.

While I know Erin got lots of ideas, practical tips and encouragement to take her non-profit’s social media to the next level, what she doesn’t know is that I got just as much out of the conversation. It reminded me of why I love my job and reminded me of the things I wanted to try and haven’t had a chance.

I hope Erin will be able to learn from our successes and failures and set realistic goals for what she and her organization want to accomplish. I’m excited to see what she comes up with!

If you’re ever given the opportunity to pay it forward, do it. You won’t regret it.

Formal Speech

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The more I talk with friends, colleagues and just people in general, the more I realize we all communicate in two very different forms of speech.

Most of us reserve formal speech for the office or when we meet new people. As we get to know our co-workers and friends better we lapse into a more casual way of communicating. Complete with slang, curses and made up words. Not to mention turning other words into nouns, verbs and not the original part of speech. This greatly depends on your office culture and I wouldn’t recommend casual forms of speech when talking with your boss or giving a presentation.

While some people have said this casual way of speaking is to the determent of the English language, I disagree. Language evolves. With the constant communication we take for granted every day, language is evolving faster.

Prime example: I started saying love, love, love awhile ago. I can’t take credit for being the first because I can’t say I was, but I can say I was the first in my group of friends. Enough so that one of them realized she was using it every day and said when I say it, in my head, I hear it in your voice.

This topic came about because of this story on NPR about Eliza Doolittle Day on May 20th. The particular point I found interesting was “We are now in an age when Sarah Palin speaks to a quarter of the electorate, even though she talks like she’s translating into Korean and back again. Even the rhetorically gifted President Obama has felt compelled to drop his g’s while tryin’ to sell health care reform.”

The author continues on to say “Our country was built by people striving to move up, not dumbing down. So on this Eliza Doolittle Day, perhaps we should all take a moment to think before we speak.”

I wonder if it isn’t that we are dumbing ourselves down, but trying to communicate with a wider audience in a more relatable way.

As you well know, Time is Money

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How do you determine what your time is worth? How about your expertise? Knowledge? Advice? We all give our advice and suggestions to friends and family for free. Is there a right time to stop this practice (maybe not for your family, but friends and friends of friends)?

Kate Ottavio has not one, but two great posts on the topic at PR Breakfast Club: Give it away… For Free! and Bring on the money! Working for free… (both excellent reads).

She makes an excellent point that “one will be asking us for our advice when we‘re out of a job or have closed shop.” Which is true.

I think there comes a time in every professional’s life where they want to make money and when your time becomes even more valuable.

If you aren’t comfortable quoting your friend your hourly rate, see if there is something you can barter for. Maybe your friend is an excellent web page designer and you are a great copy editor. Offer to edit his next term paper in exchange for helping you with your website. There is always something.

I know I’ve said it before, but don’t sell yourself short either. Make your projects worth your time and don’t be afraid to say no when the project isn’t worth your time. Obviously, try to leave the door open in case that changes, but don’t just accept a project to accept it or because you think there isn’t anything better out there. There will be.