Neville Hobson

Recruiters really care about your online reputation even if you don’t

figure2 Did you know that Thursday January 28 was Data Privacy Day, an annual event celebrated in the United States, Canada, the UK and 26 other European countries?

No, I didn’t either. Its aim is to raise awareness for consumers around privacy issues.

One of the sponsors of Data Privacy Day is Microsoft who commissioned research in France, Germany, the UK and the USA to find out how people manage the information they and others place on the internet.

The research was conducted in December 2009 by market research firm Cross-Tab. The overall results are fascinating, with some terrific insight into people’s behaviours online and their concerns (summarized at the end of this post). What’s really interesting to me, though, are the metrics about the effects online behaviours unquestionably have on the attitudes and actions of recruiters – individuals who make hiring decisions – in a society in which behaviour norms and standards are rapidly evolving and where, it seems, anything goes online as well as offline.

[…] Because the private actions of employees can now embarrass companies in ways that make headlines and spread around the online world in minutes, hiring processes have changed to include vetting all behavior, not just how someone performs on the job. Concerns about lifestyle, inappropriate comments, and unsuitable photos and videos top the list of reasons that those surveyed give for rejecting a candidate. But they also rejected applicants because of inappropriate comments by friends, family, and colleagues, or based on membership in certain groups.

So if ever you thought that those pics, videos and stories on Facebook about those weekend parties you do, or how you lived life at Uni, are just a huge laugh and great fun for your social networking friends to see, just check this chart:

If you’re job hunting, it’s less of a problem if you’re French but a major one if you’re American.

Checking people out online and gaining insight into their behaviours is a clear trend and will become more common, according to the research, although not uniformly so in the four major countries surveyed.

Still, a definite trend nevertheless.

What if a recruiter finds information about you online that isn’t true? Here’s the reality:

[…] Nearly 90% of US recruiters and HR professionals surveyed say they are somewhat to very concerned that the online reputational information they discover may be inaccurate. An equal number claim they take steps to corroborate its authenticity. (The research did not investigate what steps they take to validate the authenticity of the information they find.) In France, 47% of recruiters and HR professionals surveyed are concerned with information accuracy, and even more (50%) say they take steps to verify it. Recruiters and HR professionals surveyed in the UK and Germany are not as likely to check information accuracy. In the UK, 80% of these professionals said they are concerned with the veracity of the data, yet only 68% say they take steps to check it. And though 79% of recruiters and HR professionals in Germany express concern, only 39% say they attempt to verify the data.

In other words, assume that what people (recruiters) see about you online, it’s likely that’s what they’ll believe about you. The bottom line for you: good online reputations matter to recruiters and HR professionals.

A clear message, then: take care of your reputation online.

I think the best summing-up of everything presented in Cross-Tab’s research are the responses to this question asked of the people Cross-Tab surveyed: “In the last six months, which of the following steps (if any) have you taken to protect your online reputation?”

Interesting results, summarized nicely in this chart (click the image, or here, to see it in full size):

Overall, the research paints a thought-provoking picture, summarized here from the survey’s executive summary:

Details:

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