The old statement, “You can run, but you cannot hide” is truer today than ever before. Two words explain it: social media. Couple those words with the now recognized lack of privacy that has engulfed us all and we have a situation that results in others, especially prospective employers, knowing more about you than you know about them. The statement that everything that ever was or will be is “Googleable” is not far from the truth. Almost all of our deepest, darkest secrets can be discovered. It is a reality, and we all must learn to live with it. Today, we see public officials confronted with statements and pictures from their distant past come back to haunt them. In many instances, those ancient incidents are taken out of context. Explanations are interpreted as excuses. It can easily happen to you!
Expect any potential employer to take advantage of the free access as well as paid access to information about you from your credit score, to your last five addresses, to your social habits and friends. Unfortunately, there are no “do-overs” or the ability to completely retract information once posted on the Internet or shared “only” with a select group of “friends.” We all must learn to deal with it and meet compromising “facts” head-on. The only good news is that all of us face the same issue.
One method to offset the potential compromising information from other sources is to optimize your LinkedIn profile and the associated posted information. LinkedIn has become the de facto standard for professional recruiters and most internal H/R professionals. Historically, large executive search firms have carefully guarded their internal candidate databases. Today, they have no advantage. Individual users, for their own purposes, keep their LinkedIn profiles up-to-date far better than a third party can possibly do. Additionally, the LinkedIn profiles typically include far more information about the individual, their interests, and the individuals and groups that they associate with than any private database can ever hope to capture and maintain. A job candidate simply must maintain an accurate and interesting presence on LinkedIn as table stakes. If not, they will be at a significant disadvantage, perhaps even before they have their first in-person interview – if they even make it past the first resume review filter. Rather than list LinkedIn tips in this article, just search for “getting the most out of LinkedIn” or something similar and then select some of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of matches to explore.
As powerful as LinkedIn is, think of it as if it were a company’s website. A website displays only the information that the company wants viewers to see. In that sense, it is as two-dimensional as the device used to display it. For a reviewer, LinkedIn provides a starting point to dig deeper into a person’s background and capabilities. Include other links and sources of information to help the reviewer find what they are looking for – a better understanding of who you are and your capabilities.
[No, I am not being compensated by LinkedIn and I do not follow my own advice; my LinkedIn profile is barely adequate – because I am no longer looking for a job or attempting to build a following.]