We all know the stories about people who’ve done less than brilliant things like posting revealing party videos on YouTube or way too much personal information on Facebook and had it come back to haunt them when they needed to do a job search or even after they’ve gotten a new job. The upside of that is that if you refrain from such dumb stunts, you shouldn’t have to be embarrassed or suffer damage to your career from those sources. However, I’ve just read an article called “What does social media gone bad look like?” The story the writer, Dean Da Costa, tells is enough to send innocent people running for cover!
Social Media can be Used Carelessly by Recruiters
In Da Costa’s article, he describes a friend who was highly qualified and should have easily landed the job he was interviewing for but was rejected with the statement that he wasn’t a good fit for the company. Da Costa investigated because he was curious about what had happened and got some information from a person he knew in the HR department at the company. It turned out that a recruiter at the company had contacted LinkedIn members who had worked at the same company and came across one who seriously bad-mouthed the job seeker. The bad-mouthing, as it happens, was a big lie by someone who had been fired for stealing and lying at work and had an axe to grind because the job seeker was involved in the case against him. Didn’t matter that it wasn’t true. The recruiter didn’t make any effort to verify what he was told.
Could this kind of nightmare experience happen to you? We’d all like to think, no way! But I’ll bet Da Costa’s friend would have said the same before it happened to him. The article was primarily a cautionary tale for recruiters and others involved in the hiring process, but what caught my attention about it was the damage it had done to that job seeker’s employment opportunity. Hopefully, it didn’t continue to hit him during subsequent opportunities he pursued, but the risk is there.
Can You Prevent or Minimize the Risk of Social Media Backfiring?
The short answer, unfortunately, is probably not. How can you possibly anticipate all the potential disasters that might strike when you haven’t done anything that deserved them? Assuming you’ve conducted yourself as a true professional in your career activities and given your previous and current employers full value (or more) in exchange for your salary, it’s fair to say you’ve done as much as most people would expect you to do. If you’ve also been selective about the people you connect with on LinkedIn or other sites, you’ve also done what you can to provide a sound foundation for your online reputation. What you can’t really do is control the behavior of people outside your sphere of influence.
If you do run into a situation that seems as out-of-kilter as Da Costa’s friend, you might want to see if you know someone who can help you gather intelligence to clarify what happened, the way he did. Companies aren’t likely to provide you with a direct and helpful answer, because they’re afraid of lawsuits or other repercussions, but sometimes people can find a way to unearth at least partial answers.