Social Media, Stalking and First Impressions

I recently met a candidate who, I accidentally found out via Google, was recently a recipient of a multi-million dollar out-of-court settlement from his ex-business partner. When our small-talk at the initial chat drifted to his recent holiday in the Caribbean, my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to clarify my findings. My Candidate was happy to confirm, but also asked whether it is now a standard practice to Google people. What follows is [the extended version] my answer and some practical advice on how to protect your professional image.

First Impressions Count

Everyone knows that, especially sales people, recruiters, managers and other socially-engaged professions. With the recent explosion of social media, first impressions are now increasingly formed through scoping your Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.

Stalking is an Outdated Term

You have to assume that people will stalk you online to find out more about you. A thorough employer will scope your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Google your name. If not at the initial stages, then certainly before proceeding to offer. Make sure you keep track of what information is available for public viewing and take control of it as much as possible.

Facebook Killed Privacy

People tend to differentiate between their personal and professional life. That’s a more traditional approach anyway – but hardly relevant any more. The best advice is to assume people will check you out prior to meeting with you – even if most won’t.

It’s All About Perceptions

View your Facebook/Instagram/LinkedIn profile as ‘Public’ and scroll down to have a look at what information is publicly available. What assumptions do you think people will make about you based on information available? The safest approach is to cater your message to the most conservative audience possible, because at the end of the day, you just don’t know who will be looking.

Now, I’m not saying that I look at all of my Candidates profiles as standard practice. Don’t know if I could find the time! And neither am I saying that every Recruiter/Employer/Colleague will. But, as my ex-KGB grandfather once advised, when it comes to your professional image, the best practice is to know as much as possible about others, and reveal as little as possible to others about you.

I want to dedicate this article to my Grandfather, a decorated WW2 veteran, who is today celebrating May 9th, a national holiday in Russia which marks the end of the World War II and the defeat of Nazi Germany.