By Robina Clough
With social networking sites becoming part of everyday life, for both personal and professional use, it is important to remember that your potential (or indeed current) employer can access your profile as easily as anyone else. More and more law firms and in-house legal departments are using such sites to scrutinise potential employees as part of their legal recruitment process, prior to interview and engagement. Often such “checks” are of an informal nature, e.g. by a curious individual line manager or law firm partner, rather than as a result of any “official” HR or organisational policy. Nevertheless, rightly or wrongly, the results of such un-official snooping can be no less significant for you.
For employers some of the main concerns are:
- Information posted about drinking or drug use;
- Provocative or inappropriate photographs or information;
- Poor communication skills;
- Negative comments about previous employer;
- Inaccurate information about education or qualifications;
- Inappropriate screen name or profile;
- Inappropriate sharing of confidential information; and
- Use of discriminatory comments.
On a more positive note, some employers have used social networking sites to identify more positive traits such as:
- Good communication skills;
- Wide range of extra-curricular activities;
- Good references and recommendations from others;
- Conveying a professional image;
- Information supporting qualifications and accolades; and
- Evidence of articles and conferences attendance.
Whilst not every law firm (particularly the more traditional) will necessarily spend time surfing the internet (leaving aside the ethical issues of such practices), it is wise to err on the side of caution.
A few tips to help you include:
- Use an appropriate profile photograph;
- Remove any inappropriate photographs from your albums, or those that you have been tagged to;
- Delete any potentially damaging wall posts that may be publicly visible; and
- Set your privacy settings to such a level that only your confirmed friends or connections can see your profile.
Assuming your online profile does not expose a negative image, social networking can offer huge potential for further developing your legal and business contacts. But remember, to exploit these fully, you need to portray a professional image at all times. In other words, it needs to be employer-friendly.
© Edwards Gibson