Reader Steve Amoia shared a Wall Street Journal article by Elizabeth Garone that might terrify you: Five Mistakes Online Job Hunters Make.

(Does this mean that if you’re not an online job hunter, you’ve got nothing to worry about?)

Steve writes:

I’m curious about something:

“Assume your future boss is reading everything you share online,” she says.

How much do you look online when you are checking out a potential candidate for a client? This WSJ article seems to imply that we are so important that recruiters have nothing better to do than peer into our online “lives.” Obviously, we all need to exercise good judgment. But if a young kid (or someone older like us) posts something stupid, should that be held against him years from now or negate positive career achievements?

Good questions, and ones that have become popular fodder for career pundits. But in practice, are recruiters and employers getting kooky? Should employers really worry so much about your online “record?” Garone says that,

“A December 2009 study by Microsoft Corp. found that 79% of hiring managers and job recruiters review online information about job applicants before making a hiring decision. Of those, 70% said that they have rejected candidates based on information that they found online.”

Say what??

I’m not surprised at all the online checking employers do — but 70% dumped applicants because of what they found online?

If I looked through the employers’ garbage cans, I’d probably find something that might make me want to dump them, too. Steve points to a kooky new sort of problem: To what extent should such “information” be used to judge job applicants?

To some extent, certainly. But, to borrow from Ben Franklin (who probably would have gotten rejected by any employer who learned that the man took “air baths” regularly — sitting naked in front of an open window): Everything in moderation!

I check people out online, but I also exercise judgment. Not until the Net came along were we able to look into so many corners of people’s lives in such detail… So what?

Before the Net, we didn’t know stuff we know now. So what? Just because you learn something doesn’t mean that it means anything. Or that it’s anything new. But when a practice like this becomes part of a routine process of checking people out, we have to start worrying whether the people who do the checking know how to weight a piece of data. The more data they have, the less they are likely to distinguish useful information.

Does it matter that I take air baths?


  1. I totally agree. An example of the nuances of this: I once checked out a candidate online and discovered that she was involved in a local, uh, hobbyist group devoted to swinging and other sexual practices out of the mainstream. I wiped it from my mind and didn’t factor it into the hiring decision; after all, I’m sure that’s true of plenty of upstanding employees and it was just harder to find out about before the Internet.

    But once I had a candidate include on her resume a link to her blog that talked in great detail about her participation in a similar club. I did factor that into my thinking about her, because I thought she’d shown poor judgment by highlighting it on her resume

  2. Nearly everyone has done something stupid in the first flush of wild youth, so I guess there will soon be a time when no one is employable on account of something that happened decades ago.

  3. This is a great thread for today because it goes to the heart of honesty, intelligence, quality, character, reliability and yes trust, in ways that may well be surprising but very clear if viewed properly.

    I will start by making perfectly clear that the low level of intelligence and sophistication combined with the incompetence and lack of discretion held by many of the people I have encountered over the past 20 years in HR departments is absolutely frightening. Therefore this hypocritical attitude of some employers is the actual pathetic part of this particular uniquely current day scenario.

    Studies will show that the vast majority of people judging others are most likely themselves the same who sit online all day (while on their HR job time) on social networking sites or shopping or in far worse situations and conduct …they are just doing it under anonymous ID (which right there frankly in my opinion is the true character flaw.) The slant toward the truly bizarre with a person to me is the idea of one doing the same thing one criticizes others about just doing it in hiding.

    I would never judge anyone from something I found online for a number of reasons, one being authenticity (anyone of intelligence realizes this first and foremost.) I appreciate a person who in upfront and confident about their personal life. However with that said, I can tell you I would immediately remove anyone I found abusing company time (I require computer monitoring for company use) and I would certainly question anyone entering unusual territory online (in hiding.) I would question their entire nature. The one found sneaking around has the true character flaws IMHO. Reviewing a stranger is a highly complex process yet there is an old saying that never fails me, ‘silent waters run deep.’ That is the standard I apply when reviewing someone’s character, and I apply it to everyone. Hiding is the key, the term is riddled with questionable behaviors.

  4. @Nic:

    I don’t know if you live in North America or not, but your comment reminded me of a popular TV show here about working life in the 1960’s called “Mad Men.” It’s about an advertising firm in New York City.

    One of the protagonists is called “Don Draper.” He stole the name during the Korean War and his wife, children and friends never knew the truth. One day, a subordinate learned about the truth accidentally. Instead of going to Draper, he went to the CEO and did it in front of the Draper character.

    He was called a fraud, should be fired immediately, etc. The CEO looked at the young salesman and said, “Who cares? The Japanese have a saying. A man enters a room and becomes the room. I don’t care who he is or what his name is.”

    The subordinate was shocked and left the room humiliated. Then the CEO told Draper, “Fire him if you want but loyalty is forged in strange ways.”

    In more modern times, as Nick Corcodilos noted, we seem to turn off our common sense in these matters. An employee is supposed to be this robotic, perfect person. Which is why many good candidates get shown the door before being invited to demonstrate how well they can do the job.

    I think the other issue is there are no boundaries any further between work and private life. HR et al are looking for reasons not to hire an individual instead of focusing on the work at hand. Part of the problem is our willingness to share too much of our private lives either online or offline. Similar to the salary history question that should be confidential and not asked, other areas of our lives should be off-limits. Candidates need to know when to say “It’s none of your business what I do on my own time or that I posted something inappropriate online when I was younger. Let’s talk about the work and how I’m going to do it profitably for you.”

  5. @Steve Amoia I am not only in the States, but watch the show Mad Men. I could not agree with you more …especially as regards your two exit lines! IMHO this is the gold standard of this issue, you wrote “It’s none of your business what I do on my own time or that I posted something inappropriate online when I was younger. Let’s talk about the work and how I’m going to do it profitably for you.”

  6. Interesting discussion. Does a person’s personal life (or presence online) matter at all if the individual is doing the work well?

    Let’s take it farther: Does their character matter, as long as it creates no problems at work? (Is it possible to separate “personal-time character” from work time?)

  7. Nick, I’d say it depends on the nature of the job. For some, it doesn’t matter at all. But some jobs are in the public eye, and/or the organization is, and in those cases it can potentially cause issues. For instance: a political campaign worker who maintains a personal blog with highly inflammatory political discourse that could be harmful if associated with the campaign. (That’s a real life example, and we asked him to take down the blog for the duration of the campaign.)

  8. This is a great discussion. Hopefully I can add something that’s worthwhile to the comments so far.

    If a candidate is a great fit for the job but has photos of themselves on the beach in Mexico in a skimpy bikini drinking from a beer bong, do you assume they are an “underachiever” because they like to drink at parties? What about the candidate who has photos of themselves running across the finish line upon completing an Ironman triathlon, do you assume they are an “achiever” based on the dedication it takes to train? Dig further and find out that the triathlete is lead singer in a band that plays offensive rap music and the one in a skimpy bikini drinking from a beer bong rescues wild life from an oil spill. (Maybe bad examples, but you get the point)

    Federal and state laws prohibit asking certain questions to prospective candidates not related to the job they are hiring for. If recruiters are looking for those answers on social networking sites to avoid asking illegal questions during an interview, aren’t they breaking the law? I say YES. Companies are obligated to tell a candidate if they will be doing a background check which could determine whether or not they can be considered based on the position they are being hired for. Those background checks are conducted by professionals whose business it is to find out about arrests, warrants, etc. It is not the business of a recruiter to do their own background check by surfing the web to get information without telling the candidate. What one recruiter finds to be inappropriate may not be inappropriate to another.

    While I believe that people need to show some discretion with what they post on their personal social network pages, I don’t feel that any person should have to keep their interests, hobbies and photos off because they may/may not get hired as a result of what they do outside of their professional lives. Social networks are designed so that people can find their friends and join or become fans of groups that interest them.

    I agree that a recruiter should bring the candidate in for an interview and see how well they communicate and if they are qualified for the job and what skills they can bring to the company before judging them and throwing their resume in the trash.

  9. I have to support Laurie’s fine commentary by pointing out that the examples she provided are not at all bad, they nailed the points precisely!

  10. I’m not so worried about unsuitable photos, as I tend not to indulge in wild behaviour (some of my family call me boring). I worry about comments on blogs and forums being used as a reason for rejection. I understand where Ask a Manager is coming from and by the sound of it, it was a temporary requirement. I’m thinking of a hypothetical situation where I’ve made a comment taking a particular viewpoint on a contentious issue, and the person interviewing me doesn’t like it. The issue might not even have been contentious when I posted the comment, but has become heated since then.

    It reminds me of stuff I’ve read about Soviet Russia during the purges of the 1930s – past remarks came back to haunt people.

  11. @Laurie: What got my ire up was the “job search and social media coach” who cautioned people to “Assume your future boss is reading everything you share online.”

    So that’s the boss who’s also going to read everything you share online after you’re hired, too. What a loony boss. Per Laurie’s example, what if he finds out you’re running triathlons and figures you are too dedicated to an extreme sport to do a good job…?


    But the main thing in Laurie’s comment that managers everywhere need to think about is, are they using the web to sidestep the law? And are they, in the end, ruining their hiring process by swallowing more information than they can comfortably digest?

  12. One thing that feeds the desire to investigate candidates is the fact that the hiring process is really an elimination process. With the vast pool of job seekers today, employers are often desperate to find reasons to eliminate people so they can pare down the stack of resumes to something more manageable. The candidate’s job is to not be easily eliminated. All the more reason to include the ATH method of pursuing companies more than postings in your search strategy.

  13. @Chris Walker: BINGO! Chris, you’ve nailed the heart of the problem. Employers structure and conduct their recruiting and hiring process to drive VOLUME into their pipeline. Consequently, most of their time and resources are devoted to eliminating most of the applicants.

    What a way to run a business.

  14. Key:

    CEO: Chief Elimination Officer.

    CHO: Chief Hiring Officer.

    CIA: Chief Interviewing Adviser.

    CRA: Chief Resume Analyst.

    CSMO: Chief Social Media Officer.

    CPCO: Chief Political-Correctness Officer.

    CCSO: Chief Common Sense Officer.

    CHAO: Chief Hiring Authority Officer.

    CAA: Chief Applicant Adviser.

    HF: Hiring Formula



    = BA: The Best Applicant.


  15. Nick, thanks for always bringing the most topical issues to the forefront. ExecuNet has been conducting “digital dirt” research since 2005 and our findings are similar, but I’d like to present the positive side of this issue: 80% of both corporate and executive recruiters say a candidate’s job prospects improve when positive information (such as thought leadership, community service activities or published articles) is found online.

    In light of this, our 2010 surveys found just about half of executives worked to become visible on the web in the last year, actively launching controlled reputation management and brand identity campaigns.

  16. @Robyn: Thanks for sharing the other side of this!

  17. Please read:

    But in the meantime, instead of parsing various what-if scenarios which sometimes allow the employer to search the internet and sometimes allow the employee to search the internet, why are we calling our congressmen and asking for strick privacy laws?

  18. I meant, why aren’t we calling our congressmen and asking for privacy laws?

  19. @Steve Amoia:
    So, if there’s more than one Chief Hiring Authority Officer, you end up with CHAOS?

    Only too true…

  20. I tutor college students and have had a few of my students show me some of their “digital life,” most of which is harmless (ie, Facebook pages). I have warned my students, though, to be careful about what they post online because it could come back to haunt them when they search for a job.

  21. My Lord, you have to “warn” college-level students what posting online means? And that word…Haunt! Oh yes, dreaded “fear and loathing” life coming back to “haunt” us! So what do most of them do after that warning? Likely IMHO learn to be weak cowards and go online anon. Jeez, please just stop.

  22. Fun topic, as someone who does competitive intel as part of my job, I’ve been using the net to gather information for a long time. The thing is when I see HR or hiring managers do this on candidates, I see the harm in their methods. I never take one data source on face value, always have more than one, I like to have three before I’m comfortable saying a spade is a spade. I know manager who have fake friend accounts on FB in order to try and friend candidates and see their personal stuff, that is wrong and probably illegal in some areas. I never look up people on social sites, I will check out their Linkedin profile, but that’s open and business focused, I go because I want to see what their professional interests and thinking are and often you find blogs or websites along those lines posted there. What someone does on their free time is not my concern, I want to know what they will do when they are in the office.

    Also, before hiring, I know what I want in a new hire, then I ask them to demonstrate to me how they fit that, most people eliminate themselves at this point by not following directions. Then you interview based on what you need. I don’t care if the person likes to vacation in Cancun or likes to take air baths, as long as they don’t do the air bathing in the office, then I don’t care. As someone else already mentioned, HR feels way to entitled to wanting information they have no business having nor is it important to the hiring process. I have never asked for a salary history, I have a budget, I don’t want someone on the cheap if it means they are gone in 6 months. The hiring process is screwed up, but so are most companies. I’m seeking a new job and one thing I am noticing is nobody wants to stick their neck out and make a decision so they do these things like cyber stalking candidates. Managers need to grow a backbone again and take responsibility for their decisions, that’s what they get paid to do, make decisions. Cyber stalking candidates is an excuse to not make a decision.

  23. Edward, IMHO you are a solid pro. If only the non-leaders could (and would) learn from what you are writing here, and appropriately follow your lead.

  24. Interesting dialogue.
    Some insights can be introduced to thinking back prior to social media. What did we expect then?
    As a manager (in hi tech) what I strived to build and run was a meritocracy. Everyone in the team doing their thing to an excellent degree
    And professionalism: conduct yourself like an adult and practice and develop your profession. And I expected whether you were a manager or not to understand management’s position as I understood your professional position
    And team work. Work together. Everyone had one basic job description. Make the team successful no matter what it took. This does not mean you love, like or loathe others in the team. As an adult professional, I expected you to get over it and work together. On my end what you did on your own time outside of work was not any of my business. As long as you did your job well and your personal behavior and advertised beliefs didn’t stampede the executives and frighten the troops you couldn’t ask for more.
    And again the adult comes into play. I expected you to know what was appropriate/inappropriate in a work environment and behave accordingly. No air baths at work.
    So now it’s the 21st century with the net and social media. It’s here, & it’s not going away. But minding your own business hasn’t gone away. When I recruit, I don’t want to know about your outside life & I expect you to know as an adult what’s appropriate/inappropriate about introducing it.
    The example about someone plugging their blog on their resume is a good example of an open invitation to look into your private life and any idiocy along for the ride. A judgement flaw you may not want in the company
    Back in the day you made your hiring judgements without knowing this stuff, and you can do it today by butting out. It’s all about how you will do your job.
    As some have pointed out, customer facing jobs enter into a gray area. Customers are very interested in knowing who they are doing business with and hence that good-judgement issue may bite you. But in a practical sense I don’t consider it a big risk. Today we are awash in information, & your customer isn’t likely to have the time to dig into your blog nor likely care about what’s there. It’s back to your professionalism which will guide you on how to conduct yourself.
    The interview process (both sides) should always be about determining your fit and value add. Nothing more. If you’re not a member of the Dare to Be Dull Club and have a wild blog then perhaps you’re search is more narrowed, looking for the 30% who likely are merit focused. The others you most likely won’t want to work for anyway

  25. This is exactly why I’m not a huge proponent of Facebook, even though this goes against the current tide. I believe that my private life should be exactly that: PRIVATE.

  26. The problem with this entire issue to me is that people so concerned about hiding their actions will also go and do whatever they want online anon. In terms of character we now go back to the word hiding, (privacy isn’t hiding if someone is so concerned about privacy IMHO they should then NOT be online at all.) Hiding or anon posting of dirt has a number of character connotations attached to it that bring up a number of reasons to me not to hire someone, or get rid of them.) Ironic on the same vein when these type of people are caught or outed after the fact proves they were nothing but cowards, frauds or worse for doing the same. Actions speak louder than words to my world.

  27. This discussion is perhaps one of the best examples of what we try to do here on Ask The Headhunter: Ask the in-your-face questions and tackle the topics no one else wants to deal with.

    @Edward: Your candor from the hiring side is refreshing. I think what’s going on is that many in HR view the online social sites as a clever way for them to get around what’s legal and, more important, what’s ethical. Thanks for laying out some of the key issues so candidly.

    Where the background checking has gone too far is that HR now escapes accountability. HR crows that, “We must follow the law! That’s why we make you apply online, so we can document all our applicants!” But in the meantime, HR often resorts to these “underground background checks” – then rejects the candidate and says it cannot disclose the reasons.

    That’s called hiding.

  28. Oy…! I especially appreciate the comments that people should behave as adults. I know we used to. I’ve been involved in “hi-tech” (computers and software)for more than 40 years now, and a living, thinking person in our society for quite a bit longer, and IMHO (I kind of like that bit of internet “shorthand”) most people aren’t quite making it out of childhood, no matter how old they are chronologically. One need look no further than our political system to see evidence of that. Why anyone should want to run for public office in this political climate is beyond comprehension. Who needs that kind of punishment?! My father had a great expression: Clean shirts and dirty underwear. Nobody can stand up to the kind of intense scrutiny – more like proctological exams – that goes on today, without somebody digging up some kind of “dirty underwear” – no matter how sartorially splendid their outer garments (their “shirts”) may be.

    I fondly look back at the days when all anyone cared about was, can you do the job? Would JFK ever have been elected in this day and age, given his private life (which, TG, remained private for such a long time)? And how many so-called “Clean Shirt” leaders have to have their “dirty underwear” aired in public, before they learn to act as adults, and “man” up to their failings and move on, before we have nobody left capable to run anything?

    Just one comment sums it up: Oy!

  29. @Nic, thanks for the compliment, always nice to hear great feedback.

    @Nick, Every job I have had, I always end up doing the competitive intel, maybe this is why I see things the way I do, but there is a line you should never cross and I take that line very seriously. I have, for example, come upon personal information about key personnel of our competitors, such as family members have trouble with the law. I don’t ever include that in my reports or talk about it or even save the information because it is not relevant to business matters and frankly, I think to share such information would say a lot about my lack of professionalism or character as a human being. I truly do not respect those who seek to find dirt on people even for hiring purposes, it says a lot about them and frankly I don’t want such people working around me because sooner o later they will turn that on you and I don’t want to work in such an environment where we all are hiding and nobody can be frank or honest for fear someone might pull out a picture of us at a party from college.

  30. @Edward: Your rule about “the line” suggests an interesting test for HR folks who dig up dirt on applicants:

    Go ahead and submit your “dirt” report, but include a list of your own online foibles before management finds them first… then we’ll take your report about the applicant seriously.

    Or in short, “Before you cast the first stone, let’s see YOUR underwear!”

  31. I’m always surprised when people in my industry post in blogs about how much they hate their clients, their jobs, the industry … and they do it under their own names!

    Airbaths on personal time … no problem.
    Venting online about another company’s business – that’s going to be a red flag for me.

  32. I read and comment on this blog as a job seeker. It makes me feel great to know that there are headhunters out there that don’t think online sleuthing to weed out a candidate is acceptable. I was beginning to think that it had become a standard free for all. Job seekers have it bad enough, but to know that there are recruiters out there that are judging you based on your personal life instead of your professional achievements, it becomes that much more degrading. It’s scary when advice like we should “assume our future boss is reading everything you share online” is given – but not half as scary as someone who calls them an online media coach (seriously??) and is making money doing so.

    I feel very strongly that what some recruiters are doing without permission and under the disguise of “weeding out” is blatantly breaking the law. After filling out a “profile” on one of the job boards, I am asked if I want to voluntarily enter some EEOC information that says it won’t be used because it’s for data purposes only. The key word is “voluntarily” because it is a candidate’s choice if they want to fill out information about their race, sex and nationality. It’s legally binding. Unfortunately some recruiters know that the EEOC’s questionnaire can easily be stepped around in order to find out about a candidate’s life without their permission.

    Perhaps it’s time for the EEOC to implement a standard and required privacy policy as to where/how personal information of a candidate can be gathered and by what means. There should be a “Do Not Pass Go” popup that says in large type what information can be gotten and how you can protect yourself, then click on agree or say “no thanks”. It should be a criminal offense if the law is broken. In my opinion it’s just another form of identity theft.

    One job board stresses the importance of networking and that employers want to know who you are connected to, so they encourage seekers to post their FB link and LinkedIn account on a personal profile page that has it’s own URL that the job board creates. It’s very similar to what @Edward posted above about friending candidates to see their personal stuff but also for finding “friends of friends” who they find out personal information about. This is all in the name of “networking”. When I called the company to ask them about it, they said I could give them as much or as little information as I wanted but I see it as a sleazy marketing that’s cheap and simple.

    (BTW, I don’t think that some employers know exactly what the EEOC stands for except that it’s an acronym for something that doesn’t apply to them.)

  33. I think the idea that it should be illegal for employers to look at candidates online is a bit over the top. It’s not all that different from employers asking around to people they know about a candidate’s reputation.

    And Laurie, it’s not illegal for an employer to happen to know what a candidate’s race (or whatever) is. It’s only illegal to use it as part of a hiring decision. They’re going to learn what race a candidate is when they interview them anyway! Now, if an employer is using the internet to seek out this information and then rejecting candidates on that basis, that’s obviously illegal (and reprehensible).

    But employers have always been able to learn more about candidates than what the candidates themselves offer up, well before the Internet.

  34. @Laurie: What’s scary is not just that employers are doing this — what’s scary is that The Wall Street Journal blows it off as though it’s YOUR problem. The WSJ doesn’t question the practice.

    Lots of executives read the WSJ. How many walk away from that article and ask their HR managers, Are we taking care of this little bit of business? Are you guys checking out our candidates’ behavior online?

    Certainly, there are cases where Internet research will reveal true problems, and companies should avoid the people behind them.

    But who is the arbiter of which Internet information about a candidate is cause for rejection? Some greenhorn personnel jockey whose job is to surf Facebook for “information?”

    Why isn’t the Journal asking the big questions? THAT’s the question.

  35. @Ask A Manager: “It’s only illegal to use it as part of a hiring decision.”

    How does anyone know whether they’ve “used it” to make a decision? Employers routinely cite legal reasons for not disclosing why they rejected a candidate. While I can see some of the logic in that, when we add in this practice that’s so well described by the WSJ, it’s clear that the corporate world is stepping way over the bounds of the law.

    Interesting that the reporter didn’t quote any employers, isn’t it? Guess there’s some legal reason why they wouldn’t want to comment… I think a Congressional investigation into recruitment advertising and hiring practices is long overdue in this country.

  36. Yes, it’s generally very hard to know whether they’ve used it as part of a hiring decision or not. The law isn’t perfect in this area (or most), for sure. But what are you going to do, require everyone to be interviewed behind a screen with a voice distortion machine so that the interviewer can’t tell what race or sex they are? At some point, the law can only do so much. The answer isn’t preventing employers from considering anything other than information the candidate themselves provided.

  37. Nick wrote, “How does anyone know whether they’ve “used it” to make a decision?” You beat me to it. That is just what I was going to add. Frankly, being a Caucasian man I really don’t care for myself because even if it was used against me I would be in the least position to complain about it, however, if anyone thinks that once an HR person knows the race of a candidate that it is not subconsciously playing into the game, they are dreaming. That is the point.

  38. Temp firm in trouble for profiling people by age, race, sex.
    I seriously doubt is just one temp firm practicing this. It confirms my theory that it’s no different than “asking around” about someone’s reputation.

  39. @Ask A Manager: I agree with you – none of this is simple. But I don’t think the problem is with corporate policy. I see this as a professional issue. The HR community (SHRM, etc.) needs to police its own, set standards for behavior and issue recommendations to its members. HR professionals as a group are pretending there’s no problem, no issue. They need to address this.

  40. Sorry. I meant that it’s my theory that it IS quite different from simply asking around to find out about a candidate’s reputation.

  41. Nick, I could absolutely get on board with that. It’s just involving the law that I think would be crazy.

  42. It’s still all about the “line” that has been mentioned, knowing where it lies and not crossing it and objectively ignoring what’s not relevant to your professional value add.
    We’re lawed to death and more won’t help but complicate the whole process which is complex enough as it is. If in the process of job hunting you come across someone who doesn’t understand the line, sooner or later they’ll cross it and incorporate thinking that’s dumb and inappropriate. At the very latest when you walk in the door. You simply need to find hiring people who don’t cross that line. You don’t want to work there. In this sense perhaps it’s just as well that they screen themselves out for you via social media. Those that do business with you either don’t look or do and don’t care about what they find. You most likely will want to work for them.
    Keep in mind within the professional realm I do want to know who I’m doing business with. In most cases I use LinkedIn to check someone out, which I don’t consider social media, but a business network. I may google you as well, which may sling me into social media, but I don’t follow those threads. No interest.
    Given the net, I expect and am not offended if someone does likewise. Which brings up the point that the door of this research fetish swings two ways…the job hunter is equally equipped once they have a research the researcher. hiring managers, HR, you can learn about who you may or are doing business with…but then there’s that line

  43. I write a blog focused on Company Culture, Leadership, and Employee Expectations and how the intersection of these 3 components can create a highly motivated workforce. My blog posts are also posted in other forums including certain groups on LinkedIn. A number of times I have received comments from LinkedIn members that shed a very bad light on their personal work habits, their view of management and display an amazing lack of common sense.

    Were I a hiring manager, LinkedIn is a place where I might readily check out a potential employee and try to understand them more thoroughly. If a hiring manager would read some of the comments made in this public on-line forum it could very well lead to someone not getting a job.

    Publishing on the web is now both commonplace and public. As the old saying goes, “If you wouldn’t want to read your comments on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, don’t publish them on the web”.

    It would seem that Mark Twain was correct. Nothing is as uncommon as common sense.

  44. @David R Meyer: You’re making a very useful point. There are many online venues, but as in the real world, some venues are more meaningful than others. For background checking, LinkedIn is one of those.

    If I were to run into a job candidate in a bar and found him talking boisterously or even using strong language, that’s data.

    If I find him on LinkedIn, commenting on something and expressing himself rudely, that’s data.

    I pretty much discount the former, taking the venue into account. We make noise in bars. So what.

    But the LinkedIn data – that’s a recognized professional forum, where you WANT to be found. It’s almost implicit: Your presence on LinkedIn constitutes a sort of reference point. It’s a place where you expect (and want) to be judged. If I’m looking at you as a job candidate, you’ve probably hurt your chances of getting hired, and I think that’s a legitimate (and smart) use of the data on my part.

    By the way, yesterday I published some comments on the Wall Street Journal website, and I hope they wind up in the newspaper itself ;-)

  45. I have to agree completely with Nick. David you brought up a very good point that has not been explored, which is what venue online is the most telling of one’s character. As Nick stated Linkedin being a professional forum is just that kind of telling venue. I have always considered it as just that …professional yet with that stated I have also seen things on there that have made my hair stand on end by so-called professionals (who likely some of whom are the same criticizing others regarding other online activities.)

  46. Thank you both for your feedback. To me the saddest part is that I have tried to counsel these people off line about how their comments can be used, and they really don’t seem to get it. So while they continue to shoot themsevles in the foot they will also continue to blame “the man” for their unemployment.