Sunday, November 24, 2019

What you put online is fair game for employer to dissect

When students register for a writing class I teach, I typically set up a Google alert for their name. I'm not trying to be alerted to any misdeeds or glories; I simply like to keep up with their writing.

Often students alert me when a piece is published or posted, but just as often, after they've moved on from my class, graduate and get on with their careers, they don't. I do look to see if any of the work we've done in class has transferred over into their online work, but mostly, I simply enjoy reading what they have to write.

Google alerts doesn't capture every instance of a former student posting an article, but the technological assist helps me keep up with their work. I also use technology to learn more about my students when they register for a class with me. They each fill out a one-page survey about, among other things, what they read and what they might have written. If they list a prior publication, I try to look it up and read it.

While I don't always announce to classes that I do this, I make no secret of it and I see it as part of the research I do in preparation for current and future classes. Some pieces from former students make it into the assigned readings for future classes.

Working with students continues to be the best part of my job.

I raise all of this because I continue to be surprised when readers seemed shocked that a prospective employer or someone else discovers something about them online that they hadn't made a point of disclosing. If someone maintains a public Twitter account, which anyone with a Twitter account can see, for example, they should not be surprised if racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic or other hateful Tweets they make get called out.

A fellow employee has every right to raise concern about a colleague's hateful speech. We do have a right to free speech, but we do not have the right to be hired by someone who finds such speech inappropriate and likely to lead to a hostile work environment.

Access to online information about each of us also makes it far more likely that any fabrications we might have made about our past to secure gainful employment or simply higher regard from others will be uncovered.

It's not a heavy lift to discover if someone claiming to have earned an MBA from an Ivy League school actually spent several days on campus to earn a non-degree certificate of completion. Nevertheless, some employers still don't bother to double-check a candidate's stated credentials before hiring them. Even if a fabricated degree isn't necessary for a particular job, lying on a resume speaks to the integrity of the candidate.

I recognize that leaving my own footprint online leaves my past open to discovery by students, readers and others. My proclivity for collecting restaurant butter knives is not my proudest moment, but it's out there.

When it comes to our expectations about online information, the right thing is to be fair and respectful about how we use it when it comes to others and to own that our past behavior can define how we are perceived in the future. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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