I am a member of a number of professional groups and forums as well as informal ones like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Indeed beneath this rugged and boyish facade I’m a dedicated professional developer. I’ve just read an informal article about the IT job market that offers some tips for getting that job and five things to avoid. One point stood out and reflects on something that Brennig mentioned last week. That is that having an online presence is an asset for seeking employment.
Now I don’t get to interview for IT staff very often. We’ve got a tiny IT team here at “someone else’s lily pad” that consists of me and some part time consultants with a bit of floorwalking by some power users in the office. If a consultant were to leave (why would they do that when they earn more than anyone who is employed) or the spending freeze were lifted then I’d have to interview again. Just don’t ask why they’ll pay for consultants and not permanent staff. I would certainly check out the web site and profiles of any candidates shortlisted for interview and do a google search on them. Some companies go an awful lot further than that.
What would this tell me about a professional though that isn’t on their CV (resume for any US readers)? I’d be interested on what wasn’t available rather than what was. Only by omission could I assess someone’s commitment and interest in a given area. If they weren’t a member of a professional body or didn’t have a LinkedIn profile with membership of the right groups then I’d want to know why not.
Yet how useful is this? They could have, like Brennig, decided that LinkedIn was just shit. They might be over 12 and therefore not interested in Facebook. It is possible that they don’t find Stephen Fry all that interesting and so haven’t joined Twitter. They may simply value their privacy and use a pseudonym when on the web. They may know a little bit about the shockingly poor security measures of public facing social web sites and just steer clear of the whole shebang. What use then is my googling their name or searching for their profile? My expectation that they’ll have an online presence may be unrealistic and even if it is realistic do I want to employ someone who spends time on Twitter and Facebook when they should be working?
Not finding something tells me nothing useful. Finding something questionable or embarrassing does. Well it tells me that the person has done something embarrassing and not much more. That is why you should find that video from last year of you drunkenly singing Lou Reed’s Perfect Day while naked and delete it. You should delete entirely the profile that you use to write online slash porn about Harry Potter and Dobby (what were you thinking?) and you should definitely recover those “candid” pictures from your ex and get them removed from his MySpace page. Delete them now before you even apply for that job.
Although nothing ever truly gets deleted from the Internet.