A reader writes:
I’m a hiring manager in the creative industry. As part of the review process, I’ll do a quick Google search of each applicant. This usually brings up LinkedIn and/or a portfolio website. Sometimes, I’ll stumble across a cooking blog or travel photos on Flickr. I believe it’s important to maintain a work-life balance, so it’s nice to get a glimpse of what applicants are interested in outside the office. The Google search has always been a positive experience, until now…
When I Googled one of the frontrunners for a position, I didn’t find a LinkedIn profile. Instead I found a MySpace page that was covered in party photos where the applicant looked like she had way too many. The page also had what appeared to be professional boudoir shots. Pretty darn close to completely naked, and I have seen quite enough of this applicant’s butt crack. It also doesn’t help that the headline of the MySpace page was “~*ShAkE iT oFf*~”. (Seriously? This is coming from an applicant who is likely in her early 30s.)
I’ve interviewed this applicant in person, and I am absolutely sure that was her in all those photos. You’d think that someone applying for a marketing/design position would realize how important it is to have maintain a positive online presence. I realize I stumbled upon her *personal* page, but I didn’t exactly have to do much snooping to get there. Just a quick Google search of her name and email. No privacy settings. Everything on display.
This applicant was in the top 5, and I was originally planning on asking her to come in for a second interview with the team. She was professional and polished when I met with her. Fairly solid qualifications and experience. However, her page demonstrates a serious lack of judgement. Our clients might stumble across her page, and who knows how she might be behave at events where alcohol is present.
Would you move forward with the second interview? Should I mention that we came across her MySpace page and that it could be hurting her career? How would you handle this situation?
People still have MySpace pages?
In any case, yeah, drunken photos and boudoir shots (!) — not exactly the online persona that you want to showcase when you’re in a job search.
I think it’s perfectly reasonable to remove her from the running based on this. It shows bad judgment, and you’re right that someone applying for a marketing position should be especially aware of how her online presence will influence how she’s perceived. And really, at this point there’s been so much attention paid to how things on the Internet can come back to haunt you that there’s no excuse for any reasonably savvy person to leave this kind of public trail, particularly during a job search.
And while I know that people like to argue that someone’s personal life should have no bearing on their candidacy, the reality is that the Internet is public, and the way you choose to present yourself on it is part of the overall picture you present to an employer. It’s not like an employer sneaking a look in your bedroom window — it’s a public forum that you’re choosing to participate in publicly, and what you do there reflects your judgment or lack thereof.
As for whether to mention this to her or not, you’re certainly not obligated to but you’d be doing her a big favor if you did. I’d say something like, “While we were impressed with you in your interview, we routinely look at applicants’ online presence, and what we found on some of your public social networking profiles raised red flags about judgment and professionalism. I’m mentioning this because it’s a factor that might be holding you back in your job search, so it could be worth taking a look at.” Followed by, “I enjoyed meeting you and wish you all the best in your search,” etc.
What do others think? Anyone want to argue the employer should pretend she never saw it?