Your life online: You can run, but you can’t hide.

Vetting Job Candidates OnlineRecently, a Microsoft-commmissioned survey conducted by Cross-Tab Marketing Services discovered that fewer than 10% of U.S. consumers believe information found online about them would have a negative impact on their ability to get a job.

How clueless. That same survey also queried ~1,200 recruiters and human resources personnel. It found that these professionals are highly likely to research the online profile and online activities of job candidates as part of their vetting and winnowing process.

Fully 70% of them reported that they’ve rejected candidates based on what they found.

Going further, the HR survey found that the majority of companies have made online screening a formal part of the hiring process, and the expectation is that online vetting will become even more important in the years ahead.

Fortunately, it’s not just negative information that counts, because ~85% of the HR respondents reported that discovering a positive online presence influences their hiring decisions at least to some degree … and the stronger and more relevant to the candidate’s prospective job responsibilities, the better.

When asked to comment on what types of online information was “appropriate” for companies to assess, consumer respondents’ views were at sharp odds with the HR professionals:

Viewing photo and video sharing sites: ~44% of consumers feel these are inappropriate to consider … yet ~60% of recruiters and HR professionals are busy checking them.

Looking at social networking sites like Facebook: ~43% of consumers (and ~56% of younger consumers under the age of 25) feel that these should be off-limits … but ~63% of the HR folks review them.

 Consumers are even more critical of HR personnel reviewing sites such as online gaming, classified ad sites like Craigslist, and “virtual worlds” … yet more than 25% of HR professionals are snooping around those types of sites as well.

And let’s not forget the search engines. Not only do many individuals “Google” their name to see what’s out there on them in Cyberspace, HR personnel do it as well. In fact, that’s the most prevalent online investigative tool – done by nearly 80% of the HR professionals who participated in the Microsoft survey.

Why are job candidates rejected? It’s for the expected reasons, including:

 Concerns about a candidate’s lifestyle (~58%)
 Inappropriate comments and text written by the candidate (~56%)
 Unsuitable photos, video and information (~55%)
 Inappropriate comments or text written by friends and relatives (~43%)
 Comments criticizing previous employers, co-workers or clients (~40%)

There’s nothing really new about this list – people have been passed over for jobs for reasons like these since way back before computers and the Internet. But today, it’s all out there – in plain view and just a few quick keystrokes away. That’s a huge difference.

And there’s one other important thing to remember: the stuff tends to live out there in cyberspace for a long, long time, and attempts to squelch unflattering information are usually fruitless.

Recruiting New Employees in a Web 2.0 World

Facebook has overtaken MySpace and other sites to become the largest and most popular social networking choice for young and old alike. And while LinkedIn still maintains an edge over Facebook as a professional networking resource, Facebook has done a very effective job in blurring the lines between personal and professional social interaction on the web.

The latest development that proves this is the increasing popularity of company “fan” pages on Facebook. Anyone can start a fan page showcasing a company they know and love … and many employees have taken the opportunity to create pages for their own organizations. My own company, Mullin/Ashley Associates, is no exception. Currently, Facebook offers more tools for uploading interesting content such as photo galleries and video clips, along with providing a great platform for news updates, wall postings and chat.

Going further, some companies have elected to turn Facebook into their vehicle of choice to promote themselves to prospective employees. Posting videos of employees talking about their positive work experiences … including pictures of the office environment … showcasing employee events … all of this brings a company to life far more effectively than just by advertising open positions on web job boards such as Monster.com.

The beauty of using Facebook in this manner is not only that companies can make a bigger and better impression, but they can do it without having to incur any significant cost. And if it’s done particularly well, it might even result in lower costs, as fee-based recruitment ad placements can be reduced or even eliminated.

Increasingly, people are being connected through social networks, and this phenomenon will only grow in the months and years ahead. In such an environment, companies that champion “content, creativity and community” will be the winners. That goes for hiring, as well.