PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Social media has become a regular part of everyday life, but what may seem like a harmless post online may be the reason employers are passing you over for a job. Eyewitness News is taking a closer look at digital red flags and the services that’ll help you clean them up.
CBS3 intern Chad Chevannes isn’t your typical college junior. He describes himself as an introvert who doesn’t use social media much.
“Teachers have told me that what you put on there stays on there, so I try not to put any crazy stuff on there,” he said.
He felt pretty confident when asked to be our guinea pig and put his name and social media accounts through an online reputation audit.
“Do you have any idea of what might come up on it?” asked CBS3’s Trang Do. “I have no idea,” he said. “Probably a lot of old pictures that I’m probably embarrassed of right now.”
Companies like Rep’nUp and BrandYourself offer to help you clean up, protect and improve your online reputation for a one-time, monthly or yearly fee. Patrick Ambron is founder and CEO of BrandYourself, one of the earliest to offer this kind of service.
“Consumers need protection as we live more of our lives online, whether that’s our reputation or our privacy,” Ambron said. “On the reputation side, we’re scouring the web, Google, your social media profiles and trying to give you a sense of if you would likely pass or fail an online screening.”
With Chevannes on the hunt for future internships and soon enough, job opportunities, we decided to use BrandYourself’s free audit function to see what employers might find if they looked him up online.
“We find the average person has over 10,000 social media posts, tags, or likes associated with them and that’s a lot,” Ambron said.
Chevannes provided his name and email and linked his Facebook account to the service and was both surprised and not surprised by the results.
“Dang! I guess I am a pretty boring person!” he said with a chuckle.
The audit found no posts or images with profanity, bigotry, references to drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, criminal behavior or polarizing topics. Still, Chevannes received a reputation score of “fair.”
“They didn’t find anything, but it’s fair. I thought it might be good, excellent,” he said. The reason given for Chevannes’ score? “Your online presence may not be directly hurting you, but would likely fail to impress.”
The same idea was echoed by Laura Craig, associate director of career development at Temple University’s Career Center. Craig says making sure you have a positive online presence is just as important to potential employers as cleaning up negative posts.
“Let’s say they are on a creative path and they don’t have a portfolio of their work available online or they’re not visible on social media. That honestly might be one the biggest pitfalls right now,” she said. “Not having a presence or not being able to be found, especially in industries that are involved with social media or use social media heavily, could be its own red flag.”
Ambron says it’s also worth noting that more than half of employers perform online screenings of current employees, something that just last month resulted in the firing of 13 Philadelphia police officers found to have posted racist, offensive and violent content on Facebook. The department reprimanded and suspended dozens of others.
“Obviously, this is an extreme example where it sounds like there were really terrible things being posted, but for your average consumer, I think the takeaway should be the realization that even as you’re employed, your social media presence will be scrutinized,” he said.
Chevannes didn’t need to use any of BrandYourself’s paid features since his social media presence was pretty squeaky clean. But he says he definitely learned a valuable lesson.
“Not having anything on there that was bad was not hurting me, but I guess I have to post more positive things. As for what, I don’t know. I guess I’ll post my GPA on there or something,” he said.
Ambron tells Eyewitness News most of his customers pay about $100 a year for ongoing screening and action to protect their online reputations and privacy, but the initial audit is free. Craig adds that counselors at Temple’s Career Center are happy to review students’ online accounts and presence for free as well.