How cyberspace can ruin your job

With social networking sites (SNS) becoming giants in communication, students need to become more concerned with their online reputations.  While many people may have heard what they post online could have an impact on future employment, most don’t realize to what extent this is true. When something is posted on the Internet it becomes difficult to delete all traces of it.  Just because a post is protected by privacy settings does not mean that it cannot be spread across the Web.  Not only can ‘friends’ share information, but there are a plethora of ways to hack SNS.

“An online reputation is the publicly held social evaluation of a person based on his or her behavior, what he or she posts, and what others (such as individuals, groups, and web services) share about the person on the Internet,” according to a survey done by Cross-Tab, a market researching company, for Microsoft.

Employers do meticulous searches to determine an applicant’s online reputation.  With information on the Web free for anyone to access, companies want to insure that their employees are a positive representation of their company.

According to Cross-Tab, 75 percent of U.S. companies require a review of reputational data prior to a job offer and 79 percent of recruiters and HR professionals surveyed seek it.

“I’ve heard of employers looking at your Facebook, but that’s not really what goes through my head [when posting],” sophomore Melissa Seely said.

Only seven percent of U.S. consumers think that online data affected their job search.  This is a comparatively low number considering that 70 percent of recruiters and HR professionals say that they have rejected candidates based off of data found online, according to Cross-Tab.

Even if employers are not the number one reason students are checking on their online reputation, many still think before they post.  Whenever posting online Seely feels she has a definite filter, she said.  This seems to be a common approach among Whitworth students.

“I make sure that anything I put [online] is appropriate for both me to view and anyone who stumbles on to it,” ASWU President elect Eric Fullerton said.  “It’s a personal preference.   It’s very easy for people to get wrong impressions from Facebook.”

Consumers are still worried about how their online reputation will affect their lives in general.  According to Cross-Tab, 51 percent of U.S. consumers are ‘somewhat to very concerned.’  The top reasons listed for rejecting applicants based off of online data includes concerns about life style, inappropriate comments and unsuitable photos and videos.

Not all the reasons listed for rejecting candidates are under their control.  Students wanting to patrol the Web for possible damage to their reputation should also be on the lookout for inappropriate comments by friends, family and colleagues, according to Cross-Tab.

“I’ve had two phone interviews where they pre-ambled by saying that they do actually check to see what their candidate is up to online,” Fullerton said.

For those who wish to check up on their current online reputation, there are a number of possibilities.  One of the more obvious options is to use search engines to find if personal information that has been posted on the Internet.  Beyond this students may use alerts to notify them if their name or information appears on the Web, check to see what other people say about them online (this includes visiting friends’ profiles) and using the available privacy settings on SNS.

Even with all these safeguards, the most effective way to ensure that an online reputation stays clean is simply to avoid posting information that could be detrimental or embarrassing in the future.

“Whenever I post a video or write a comment it always crosses my mind that anyone could see it in the future,” sophomore Andrew Repsold said.

Repsold believes posting something online about someone else is like writing a letter to or calling that person, he said.

Because SNS are not private, it is easy and quite plausible to be held accountable for anything posted online.


Story by Lauren Otheim