Use their snooping to build your brand
Do you use some of the fun or convenient new services on the Web? You may be adding to what recruiters learn about you when you do. That can be a scary proposition, I suppose, but it also offers a subtle opportunity to enhance your brand online.
The ethics of online background research are still uncertain, and some recruiters and hiring managers are looking in unusual places to find out about candidates. The latest place is a candidate's Amazon wish list (via Penelope Trunk). People also leave an identifiable trail on del.icio.us, Furl, Digg, Technorati, Flickr, YouTube, and many others. For those keeping score, these are some of the most popular new sites on the web. To get their full value, you need to become a member, and some of what you do there is visible to the public. These sites all have the potential to be used and abused by potential (or current!) employers.
I think searching these sites as part of the hiring process crosses the ethical line, but it is way to find out what people are interested in. Jason Zimdars, whose wish list came up in an interview, described it in positive terms:
Many times in interviews, the interviewer would comment on a blog post I had written or a book on my Amazon wish list. These were great ice-breakers and really helped me to connect with potential employers on a more personal level. Well-executed online information can be a great asset in your job search as companies can learn more about you than simply by reading your resume.
These background checks provide an opportunity to thejobseeker. Knowing that potential employers may look at your online breadcrumbs, you can make a point of doing things that will help your case. Pay attention to what is visible to the public, and use some of these services to support the image you want to project. If your personal brand is honest and consistent with who you really are, this shouldn't present a problem. And if you must do something that could be a problem in the future, don't do it in a public place.
In managing your online reputation, you have a few choices: you can avoid these services altogether, you can hide your identity on these services, or you can use them in a way that enhances—or at least doesn't hurt—your career. Avoiding them deprives you of some really fun and useful services. Hiding your identity (by using different user names on each service) might work, but secrets have a way of being found out. I recommend using the sites that interest you, keeping in mind that a potential employer may take an interest in what you've done. A few well-placed breadcrumbs may even help you some day.
Tags: reputation brand recruitment Amazon