Haven’t Heard Back From An Employer? Maybe It’s Your Digital Footprint
I was talking to a job candidate who had everything on paper.
3 advanced degrees. Industry experience before getting their degrees.
A long list of skills that were easily matched to a variety of job postings.
But, the same negative thing kept happening.
They’d get to the first or second interview, and then, after the interview went really well, not hear back.
This happened 22 different times. Now, they’re not even getting interviews.
That’s when I asked if they’d reviewed their digital footprint.
“My what?”, they said?
Your digital footprint – a review of everything you’ve posted online that employers can find.
“Oh, I don’t really use social media and when I do, I have everything set to private.”
That doesn’t matter anymore thanks to AI.
I showed them a couple of software tools and quickly pulled up a Yelp review they made 3 years ago bashing a restaurant.
“What about this?” I asked.
“Uh, well, I forgot about that. But why would they care?” they said.
“Why wouldn’t they care? They’re going to give you a six figure job and give you keycard and computer access to data that can negatively affect a hundred million dollar company if misused – do you think they want to hire an online troll into this position?”
Stunned and nearly resentful they said, “I should be able to post whatever I want in my own time.”
“Well yes, of course. This isn’t a lesson on ethics. I’m just showing you what’s possible.” I replied.
Over the next few minutes, we pulled up her posts in a private Facebook group, and a string of subreddit and Quora posts that were anonymous using a linguistic fingerprint tool.
Shocked, this peson spent the next 3 hours frantically searching their past and deleting everything they could.
Unfortunately, the internet never forgets and many of her posts were still being found after her deletions.
What Is Your Digital Footprint
Reports by Forbes, Fast Company, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and this viral article in the New York Post have found that up to 90% of employers are rigorously reviewing job candidates’ digital footprints before hiring.
Your digital footprint is simply the information about you that exists on the internet as a result of your online activity.
Maybe you’ve been uploading resumes and not hearing anything back.
Or, maybe you were hearing back from employers but aren’t anymore.
Or, perhaps you had an interview that you thought went well but then didn’t get a reply – instead, they ghosted you.
This is a common sign that your digital footprint may have been reviewed and the employer didn’t like what they saw. In today’s digital age, the internet has become an indispensable tool not only for job seekers but also for employers.
Today’s rapid advances in Artificial Intelligence has made it easier than ever for employers to find and review not only your public online postings, but also your private postings and even your anonymous postings.
Did you bash a restaurant on Yelp for bad service? A potential employer will likely find out.
Did you post a comment on someone else’s social media post 3 years ago going off on a controversial topic and forgot the comment was there? AI will show employers exactly where it is.
Have you had very open conversations in a private Facebook or LinkedIn group thinking that no one else could access it? AI accounts or employer made accounts can access those groups and once in, review your activity.
Worse, new AI is able to identify your linguistic footprint to find your anonymous posts. Don’t think it’s possible? Think again.
An article posted in the LSE Impact Blog details how AI is being used to crack double blind studies. In the article, it shows how software can name all the authors of any abstract it’s given simply from the abstract itself and no other contextual information.
How To Clean Up Your Digital Footprint
You might think it’s your right to post what you want on your own time, and today’s social environment may be encouraging you to speak your truth, cancel people you don’t like, and generally show offense as a certified contrarian ad nauseum, but employers don’t care.
They won’t say so publicly but they do not want an online troll working at their company. So, what can you do? You can clean up your past the best you can but more importantly, you can change your behavior moving forward.
Given the increasing scrutiny of your online presence by potential employers, it’s crucial to manage your digital footprint effectively. There are 4 key ways to do this.
1. Audit your profiles.
Regularly review your social media profiles and delete content that could be viewed negatively by employers.
Pay particular attention to negative reviews of companies and negative threads in private and anonymous groups.
Many companies focus on these in particular because it’s where most people show their true colors towards businesses and organizations in general.
2. Deprioritize negative content.
Sandbox any negative content you may have forgotten about or can’t find by professionally branding yourself.
Craft a strong and professional online presence, especially on LinkedIn, to showcase your qualifications and achievements.
3. Google yourself.
That’s right, conduct regular Google or DuckDuckGo searches on your name to see what potential employers might find.
Use multiple keywords related to your name.
Dig deeply into these searches. Address any concerning content or inaccuracies.
4. Practice good online etiquette.
Don’t assume your posts are anonymous anymore or that a company’s privacy settings mean anything.
Did you really think your Incognito Google Search was private? Think again.
Instead, avoid sharing offensive or controversial content, avoid bashing other people, companies and institutions, and remember that once something is posted, it can be challenging to remove it completely, ever.
As job candidates, we invest significant time and effort into crafting our resumes and cover letters, but often underestimate the importance of our digital footprint. Employers, on the other hand, have grown increasingly vigilant about scouring the web to learn more about potential hires. So make sure you take the time to clean up your past the best you can and then practice good online etiquette for the rest of your career.
ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD
CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS
Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.
Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.More Written by Isaiah Hankel, PhD