When companies seek to hire military and they want YOU - Will your "cyberskeletons" scare them away?

by JANET FARLEY, Contributing Editor, Bradley-Morris, Inc. and CivilianJobs.com

You know you have what it takes to be hired. Not only are you a bona fide protector of the universe, but you are highly skilled, educated and downright charming. You’d be an asset to any company, especially those looking to hire military personnel. Who wouldn’t want you on their team, anyway?

Why then, are those potential employers not knocking down the door to hire you?

Those who make their living in the spotlight understand the importance of having a marketable image, free from damaging misinformation or perceptions. Just ask anyone who has appeared on the front of a tabloid! Today, many job seekers find themselves sharing that same bright spotlight, compliments of the information highway. For some this is no big deal; for others, there might be reason for concern.

Your fun-loving evil twin (that would be you, online) may have authored a ranting tirade about the state of the world in a moment of anger on your Facebook page. Those ancient and unflattering party pictures of you could have been posted by a friend on a web site after a night of extreme frivolity. While it may have seemed harmless at the time, the times have changed.

Information with a few keystrokes

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 80% of human resource professionals, including those seeking to hire military personnel, conduct criminal background investigations to screen potential employees. Another survey conducted by a recruiting network reports that 35% of executive recruiters who use the Internet to source candidates may eliminate them from consideration based on information they uncover online.

The use of the Internet as a means to screen candidates is increasing. With more and more job seekers turning to video resumes to land jobs, it only stands to reason that employers will also turn to the web to check out job seekers as well. Information such as your credit history or your personal web page can be indicative of the way you manage your personal affairs. It would not be a stretch to assume you would handle your professional affairs any differently.

Be it advanced technology or evolving job search techniques, it is not necessarily a bad thing — unless you harbor potentially image-damaging skeletons in your cyber-closet: "Cyberskeletons", if you will. In this case, “bad” is defined as anything that would make your mother blush or make you express an iota of regret for publishing it in the first place. Maybe you have a digital skeleton or two rattling around — what can you do to clear your good name and keep your past from haunting your professional future?

Uncover the dirt for yourself

Assume the role of employer and investigate yourself. Go online and find out exactly how you appear to others based upon the results of an Internet search. Start with any major search engine, such as Google, Yahoo or Dogpile: simply type your name in the search bar and see what pops up. Do not limit your searches to web sites; search the video, images, and audio options as well.

If you have created a profile on any of the social networking sites such as Facebook and wish to have it removed, contact account services for that site. You may be able to successfully edit, cancel or delete your profile altogether. This would be a good time to take a look at your email address as well. Does “bigdaddy” or “halo2007” really convey the image you want to project as you transition from one job to another? (Hate to give that one up? You could create a new e-mail account for job search purposes only.)

Garbage in, garbage out

If you suspect that you are getting the short end of the employment opportunity stick because of online findings, double-check the facts that potential employers and companies looking to hire military have on you. They could simply be confusing you with someone else. It would not be the first time mistaken identity wrecked havoc on someone’s life. One letter off in a name or an incorrectly typed social security number could mean all the difference in the world.

In theory and in law, employers are required to inform you and get your written permission before they conduct a criminal or credit check. If something shows up that would cause them to not hire you, they are required to notify you of what they found, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Reporting Act. (For more information about background checks and job seeker rights, visit www.ftc.gov/os/statues/fcra.htm).

Go into damage control mode

Uncovering your digital dirt may be painful, but you cannot address it until and unless you know about it in the first place. Of course, the best damage control is prevention, but if it is too late for that, all is not lost.
If there is any way you can pull the information or photos, do so. Do not be too optimistic, however. Once something is posted online, it can proliferate and live forever despite the power of the delete key — a fact that you should keep in mind the next time you get the urge to post anything.

Prepare a response in the event the questionable posting ever becomes a topic of conversation in an interview. If an employer mentions that he or she came across your party pictures, be able to address it directly: “Yes, I like to have good time and certainly did on that occasion. I not only play hard, but I also work hard and that is what I know will impress you the most.”

Consider using the service offered by some online job sites in which job seekers are given a secure environment where they can verify their personal data and, in turn, make it available only to employers requesting access.

Perception is reality

Like it or not, opinions and decisions are often based on perceptions, whether accurate or not. In your quest for employment, pay attention to how you are perceived on multiple levels. For example, what does the message on your home answering machine or voice mail say about you? If you have calypso music blaring in the background and sound like you have had one too many margaritas, you might want to consider recording a new message … at least until you land a job.

Make sure all of the information on your resume is accurate and truthful. Try joining online professional associations rather than social ones. And now that you’ve aired out the skeletons, keep that cyber-closet clean!


Janet Farley is the author of The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide (Jist, Inc) and The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success (Impact Publications). Her career advice also appears in the Stars & Stripes newspapers, CincHouse, and Today’s Officer. Contact her at janetfarley@hotmail.com.