In part 1 of 3 of the ‘What Is An Employee Background Check?’ series, we will look at how online searches have become an intrinsic part of the recruitment process as a whole. Whilst a search for a person’s name a decade ago would have resulted in relatively few results, today these results are in the millions – and very few are likely to be about that specific person.
What Is An Employee Background Check?
Recruiters and headhunters will use a range of tools to discover more about a potential candidate prior to the shortlisting stage, better known as an employee background check. A range of tools will be used to search for a candiate online, and may include a Google search, a Facebook profile search, a Twitter account search or even an advanced query based online search; using a tool to find exact keyword matches from websites, social networks, blogs, discussion boars and published articles. Whilst not every recruiter and headhunter will conduct an online search in this manner, many will and it was reported in a Jobvite survey that 92% of employers are using social media in their recruitment process.
Online privacy is a topic that has been entertaining journalists for many years, even more so recently with the rise and power of Facebook, and the discussion raises many potential issues. Companies like Facebook have been collecting our private information (email addresses, home addresses, telephone numbers) and data (locations, profile updates, relationship statuses, friendship connections) and this mass of information is essentially sitting in a number of server stations dotted around the world. Without getting into the technicalities and potential risks of what people could do with such data, I want to discuss the risks involving data that is publicly visible to people who search for you. By this I’m referring to the information that any Facebook member can see on your profile (not already connected to you), any Twitter follower can view on your Twitter feed and any results that appear from a Google search of your name (and job title, location, company). This is the information and data that you need to be immediately concerned about.
It is important to put yourself in the recruiters’ shoes for a moment and imagine you were hiring for a senior-level position within a multi-national corporation (or any company for that matter). What would you be looking for? A comprehensive list of experiences and achievements compiled into an easy to read CV; check. A compelling summary or cover letter detailing the objectives and motivations behind the candidates career move; check. A picture of a stunning beach-view terrace with the candidate (and his/her friend) drinking from a champagne bottle; no. Whilst there is room for you to enjoy your personal life and share it online with others, e.g. your friends, you must ensure that it isn’t damaging your professional image.
There’s a very easy way to see what people can see about you when searching for you online. You can Try it out for yourself! What you’re likely to find is a whole host of varied results, some that may relate to you and many that probably won’t, so be sure to refine your search as much as possible – try adding your industry or job title to the search, e.g. ‘John Smith Project Manager Shell’, or ‘Joe Bloggs Oil and Gas’. This will filter out the best results that relate to you, which is what recruiters and headhunters are most likely to do.
Another consideration is ‘how well linked are your professional and personal networks?’. If I was to visit your personal Facebook account – which is likely to appear fairly high in the online search results because Facebook has a very powerful search engine presence (especially if you have a fairly unique name) – would I be dead-ended? Or, would I be provided with a short summary of who you are on a professional basis, who you work for (great for a reference against your CV) and would there be a link to your professional network of choice, e.g. LinkedIn? If the answer is “no” then you need to change that today!
Search engines, namely Google, use a number of factors (joined together to make a search and result based algorithm) to determine which results appear higher than others, and one of these factors is whether or not social profiles, websites and blogs link to each other. In this case it’s a question of ‘does this person’s personal and professional profiles link together with URL’s?’. Does your Twitter provide a short professional bio along with a URL link to your LinkedIn profile? Does your Facebook provide the same? Does your website and blog provide a list of links to these social networks? By ensuring that the answer to these questions is ‘yes‘ you will be majorly improving the strength of your online presence and therefore the number of high ranking search results on the first two pages of Google.
The second part to this three-part post post will come next week, so be sure to check back here to read more!