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While slightly outdated, this CareerBuilder article from earlier this year includes information on how many employers search social media profiles as part of a background check.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

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This post is for all college seniors and anyone else who is searching for a job.

It’s recently been brought to my attention that teaching students how to find a job is an overlooked skill at many universities. I can’t promise success, but I can provide some tips that have worked for me.

Make sure everyone knows you are looking for a job. You never know when a friend’s father might know of an opening or someone from your softball team just put in their notice, if you neglect to mention that you are looking for a position. It might feel awkward at first, but memorize your elevator speech and you might be surprised who comes out of the woodwork.

Continue to socialize and talk about things other than searching for a job. It’s easy to let your job search dominate your life. You can spend countless hours combing through want ads and making phone calls. The burn out rate and general frustration can be overwhelming. Make sure you are still taking time to do the things you love and see your friends and family.

Set up Job Search Agents. Let the opening start flooding your inbox! Some of the tops choices are Monster.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed and Simply Hired. Also don’t be afraid to check the U.S. Government.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or get professional help. If it’s been six months or longer and you aren’t getting any calls or interviews, consider having a professional review your resume and cover letters. Many are former recruiters and hiring managers and have unique insight into the process. If you can, try to find someone in the field where you are applying.

Consider creating a webpage. Use WordPress or other free sites to create a site with more than just your resume. Write about your goals, show work examples, be creative!

Be selective. Know of a company you would love to work at? Go to the website, find the hiring manager’s email address and let them know. Fill out profiles on the company’s website indicating your professional history.

Check regional and national associations. These sites often advertise jobs that are not posted else where.

Learn and use LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a profile, create one. The search and connect. If you still aren’t sure how to get started, Google LinkedIn tutorial.

Google yourself. And Bing. And Yahoo. And… You get the point.

What other job search tips and tricks would you want to share with college seniors and those searching?

Reputation Alerts

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I wrote a similar post on this topic for the blog I maintain for the Missouri State Teachers Association, but I strongly feel the content is just as relevant to professionals and students. Particularly in light of recent comments by Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, which “outlined his dystopian vision of the future, in which children change their names at adulthood to escape damning online dossiers — dossiers of the sort stored by Google.” (Missed it? Click here for the article.)

It is not narcissistic to want to know what information is out there about you, especially if you are looking for a new position or may be up for a promotion, because until you know what is out there, you can’t do anything about it.

Prime example, if you Google “Aurora Meyer” a Facebook page that is not mine shows up in the first page of results. At least she is not the previous Aurora Meyer, who lived in Egypt (a country I have yet to visit), with a questionable business. Try explaining that in an interview situation without know why the interviewer is asking if you have ever visited Egypt.

Ideally, you shouldn’t be adding or allowing others to add information that you would want to hide from in 10 years. But that isn’t always possible so it is better to be prepared.

I’ve found alerts are the best way to be up-to-date and current. I use Social Mention and Google Alerts. With both. I get a more complete picture of what is out there.

I always suggest setting an alert up for your name, e-mail address and business with and without quotes. Once you’ve gotten the basic ones set up, you can add more alerts. Google will let you create up to 1,000.

For those new to Social Mention or Google Alerts, you might notice that not every item is about what you asked it to search for—that’s ok. You’ll learn how to filter at a glance what is relevant and what isn’t.

Fair Warning: These services are not fool-proof. You will still need to Google yourself regularly and scroll through more than the first few pages of results.