Ten years ago youthful indiscretions committed during college years stayed locked up in the memories of school buddies or, at worst, on a police report tucked away in a small-town police station file.
Social media and the Internet have changed that. Now, a single moment of bad judgment an unflattering photo, an inappropriate comment or something more serious can live forever in friends' Facebook posts or tweets. Worse yet, the information is easily searchable by future employers. A decade later, one black mark could doom a job application in the time it takes to type "Your Name" into a search engine.
Everyone knows this, and nearly everyone ignores this. Behavioral experts have conducted research showing that users continue to treat public social networks as if they are private conversations, often with disastrous results.
To be sure, companies are using Google and Facebook to check up on job applicants. A study released by Microsoft in 2010 found that 70 percent of company recruiters said they'd rejected applicants based on information they found online.
That same study showed that job applicants are incredibly naive about this: Only 15 percent said they thought information found online would impact their ability to get a job.
What students need, says privacy experts is a "very cynical dose of how the real world works."
"A lot of them think that employers will be fair, that they won't be hypocritical, that they will think, 'Oh, I did that when I was in school, so I won't hold this against (an applicant).’ Well that's not how it works". "Life's not fair. Companies aren't fair. They will hold it against you."
It could be as innocent as a photo of a job applicant drinking at college party, or as damning as a racial epithet placed on a blog.
It's not very time-consuming to do this. It only takes a few seconds, using Facebook, Google, and Twitter. This makes human resource employee’s jobs allot easier, and sends your resume to the round file before any real consideration.
Watch for my next article on the Way Back archive.