It is easy to forget that much of what you do online can be seen by anyone. Which makes it very important to curate your profile with care, says Evie Prosser
Handle with care. These three words ought to be emblazoned across the top of every social media platform, reminding users of its capacity to self-destruct if used unwisely.
Consider the case of Paris Brown. In 2013, the UK’s first youth police and crime commissioner ignominiously quit her high-profile position in Kent within days of being appointed, because tweets she had posted up to three years before were deemed to be racist and homophobic.
The 17-year-old Miss Brown gave up her £15,000-a-year job amid a flurry of negative publicity, admitting that she had behaved “with bravado” online, and given expression to views that she would not have aired elsewhere.
Herein lies the rub, as Just Recruitment Group Ltd’s marketing Assistant Nicole Hogger explains: “For some reason, when people post online, they don’t think the same rules apply as when they are speaking aloud, or writing offline. But if anything, you need to be even more careful about what you publish on the internet, because it’s always there. In many cases, anyone can get hold of it to use against you in future.”
This is a sobering thought, and Miss Brown’s experience shows just how easy it is to be unstuck by careless internet utterances. But even if you’re not in the running for a high-profile or political appointment, it pays to be cautious about the way you present yourself in the virtual world.
“Even though we enter passwords to access social media sites, our posts are often publicly accessible,” explains Miss Hogger. “So consider this scenario: you apply for a job in which you’re expected to be highly responsible and mature, and your would-be employee googles your name. They land on a picture from your Facebook feed of you at the weekend, downing a pint of ale while topless, under which you’ve written the caption: ‘With four pints inside me, I’m up for anything.’ It may cause them to think twice about appointing you.”
Lest you think employers are above stalking potential employees online, Miss Hogger is quick to put the record straight: “In my experience, it’s fairly standard for businesses to check out candidates online, either before or after an interview. It’s a way of gaining a deeper insight into who they are, and how they behave. It can also reveal a huge amount about their attitude to work.”
Take Samuel Crisp as an example. The Apple Store worker was sacked from his job after ranting on Facebook about his malfunctioning iPhone, as well as venting frustrations about his employer. “The interesting thing about this case is that an employment tribunal upheld Apple’s decision to sack him,” reflects Miss Hogger. “This suggests a widespread acknowledgement that what’s shared online is considered public, even if it’s only intended for friends or followers. I’m sure Mr Crisp’s outpourings made it very difficult to secure work with an alternative employer – because who would trust him after that?”
The advice, therefore, is simple: exercise self-control when it comes to your online presence, whether it takes the form of social media posts, comments on content such as newspaper articles, or your own blog. “Your best bet is not to put anything online that could portray a negative impression,” advises Miss Hogger.
That said, if you really must let off steam over the ether, Miss Hogger says it is worth paying close attention to your privacy settings on a site like Facebook. “You can set your posts so that only friends – and in some cases only a selection of friends – see them,” she says. “If you want to feel unconstrained while interacting with trusted confidantes online, it’s worth limiting access to your profile. Then if anyone else tries to monitor your web presence, they will be thwarted.”
But won’t potential employers simply assume you have something to hide if you adopt this gate-keeping approach to your profile? Miss Hogger asserts not, arguing that many employers would be impressed by the care you take, and the insight you show about being responsible online.
“This isn’t about people judging you,” she concludes. “It’s about making sure you give the very best account of yourself in the public domain, and don’t store any skeletons in your closet. Because the trouble is, if those skeletons are online, the closet door is already wide open. Which means anyone can step inside, take a look around and bring them out to show the world.”
© 2017 Just Recruitment Group Ltd.
Posted on Friday Feb 24