TMI – Too Much Information is my topic today and how, by not limiting what you post about yourself online, you are in reality limiting your potential when you search for a job.
Here’s a rhetorical question: if a stranger you don’t know asked you for your phone number would you give it to them; how would you advise your children or anyone you care about to respond? Let’s take it a step further; if you received an unsolicited letter in your physical or digital mailbox asking you personal questions without identifying the purpose for what the information would be used, how would you handle it? The same goes for other personal and family information. Would you give it to someone without knowing who they are and why they want it or for what will it be utilized? The answer should be a big and emphatic, “no”!
Yet, increasingly people willingly and without a second thought provide personal information online all the time. The most obvious issue is that of your personal privacy and security. Almost weekly we read about large scale security breaches and theft of information via sophisticated hacking. But there is another aspect most people are not considering and it is the primary reason to discuss this topic. The more complete an online profile you present to the world, the more you are providing people with the means to choose or dismiss you according to your personality, likes and dislikes than for your actual skills, experience and abilities.
Now, you may be the kind of person who says, “Good, I only want to associate and work with people who are and think just like me.” Well um, okay but it goes both ways and likewise, a hiring manager may feel the same way, before and without even considering your qualifications. You see, all this extra information could cloud and interfere as to why you might be an ideal choice, but for that personal stuff you were so hell bent to share with the world. In effect you may well be further reducing your odds of not being hired, let alone being interviewed and not even to be considered to be interviewed.
Has Facebook asked you for your phone number – you know for your convenience? Are you so desperate to be included and connected 24/7 that you provided it? Just the other day, I received a pop-up on a mainstream and popular professional social networking website, asking about the social causes I care about, which might in turn be tied to my professional profile. They suggested:
Let people know what matters to you:
- Animal Welfare
- Arts and Culture
- Civil Rights and Social Action
- Disaster and Humanitarian Relief
- Human Rights
- Poverty Alleviation
- Science and Technology
- Social Services
- Economic Empowerment
Now, by your very nature you may be an activist at heart, but what does it have to do with your professional qualifications?
As time progresses, we are increasingly characterized and judged by the information obtained by a few mere keystrokes. The more you provide the more you will be scrutinized – that’s the brave new world we already live in. Each time you put this information out there, you are being categorized, classified and grouped. BTW, you do know this info will be sold to marketing companies or, in the worst case, hacked – and all without your permission, by people and for reasons you’ll never be told. Read the small print on User Agreements; by agreeing they can do whatever they want with your info – at least however much you choose to volunteer.
As far back as the early 1990’s when I began my recruiting career, there were already plenty of laws that prohibited asking applicants and candidates personal questions about their marital status or family information. Because it is not relevant and, for good reason, it’s nobody’s business and it has little to do with your business / work-related duties. In other words, it was and is illegal to ask you for this information. But what good are those legal protections if you invalidate them, voluntarily providing it for public consumption? Yet, even now, I encounter people who, for whatever reason, list personal information on their resumes and CVs; date of birth, marital status, how many children and pets they have and other info that has no place on a professional resume – or online professional profile. Later, they whine and complain they were discriminated against for their personal views. Well, “You should’ve been knowin’ and you did it to yourself – boo friggity hoo“, is my less than conciliatory response. I might have empathy for your plight, but no sympathy.
During my lectures and seminars I suggest to people that, as companies are screening increasingly more resumes, they will undoubtedly use any convenient excuse to rule you out. HR and hiring managers disregard and disqualify people for even simple resume spelling errors, so why provide them additional reasons to eliminate you. Remember, with so many applicants, when they talk about “screening”, that means finding reasons to NOT select you for consideration; they are looking for reasons to exclude you. All of this other fluff and filler about your personal interests is silly and pointless, “Just the facts ma’am” is what Joe Friday used to say. If you want to refer to the fluffy personal stuff save it for after you meet them face–to-face and after it is established you are suitably qualified for the position. All of this connects to my blog from last week and the two previous blog entries I’ve referred to on this topic of over-exposure.
We have reached an era when you simply must separate your private and professional online presence as best you can. You know, perhaps someday they’ll categorize you even by blood type and say something like, “we prefer to select O negatives because they are more compatible than those AB people” - am I exaggerating? Can I suggest that as long as it is still possible, that maybe, just maybe, being a bit of an enigma is not such a bad thing? After all, it makes people more curious about you.
Some may think this is an unworthy topic, much about nothing. Still others may categorize my views in the tinfoil hat category. Well, perhaps and by the way, copper works best. If you think there is nothing to see here, then go ahead and move along, you’ve been warned - again.