Social networks are becoming increasingly popular and many people use them as a way to keep in touch and share information with friends or to find dates. Personal Web pages are a great place for family and friends to stay in touch; where people can blog about pet peeves, politics and other soapbox issues; and some are even posting work samples and résumés.
If you are using your personal page as a professional portfolio, this is an excellent way to assist employers in seeing a representative example of your work and to demonstrate your technical skills. Make sure to eliminate all information that will make a past or current employer uncomfortable. However, if your personal Web site is a forum for your rants about potentially divisive topics, or it is to share overly personal information, get rid of it completely.
Employers are getting smarter when it comes to understanding potential employees. It is increasingly difficult to get helpful, detailed references from former employers, and candidates are becoming savvy about answering interview questions with what they think employers want to hear. The Internet is one of the last frontiers for “free” information.
For example, a job candidate looks stellar on paper and completes a great interview. Basic references check out and even the background check is clean. The HR representative decides to do a quick search online and comes across the personal blog of a candidate in which he spews obscenities about a particular topic or person. Sure, it is the personal page of a candidate and what he says on his own time is his own business. However, how a person conducts himself privately may be an indicator of his potential behavior in the workplace, particularly under stressful conditions. It may be enough of a red flag to make the HR rep and hiring manager think twice about a job offer.
Think about how you are using the Internet in your job search beyond applying online for jobs. “Google” yourself and see what comes up. Go to peoplefinder.com and search on yourself to confirm the accuracy of the information listed. If you belong to social sites such as Facebook, MySpace, or any of the dating sites, scrub your profile and any other information listed. Any of this could be the deciding factor for a job offer.