April 13th, 2011

On looking for a job - your online reputation

I attended a session at MIX11 entitled Windows Azure from Startup to Scale (http://channel9.msdn.com/events/mix/mix11/SVC09) which was presented by the makers of myonlinecareer.com.  While explaining the problem which his company solves (and forgetting to actually speak about any technical details!), the presenter mentioned some issues with checking job applicant's’ Facebook and other social media pages.  From an employer’s perspective, there are some liabilities with checking these services since a potential employee’s ethnicity and sex are visible and obviously it would be inappropriate to make any sort of decisions based on that information.

From the potential employee perspective, however, I actually think this ‘liability’ is a good thing I’d like to share some thoughts.  You’re certainly welcome to disagree and I welcome discussion. 

I gave a .NET class about a year ago and there was a religious Jew there who was looking for a job and asked me for some suggestions.  When I recommended building an online brand he expressed similar concerns as the presenter; he worried that if he posted a picture of himself that some employers might hold his religious beliefs and behavior against him.

As anyone who knows me already knows, and if you don’t know me you could probably figure out from my blog picture, I’m a religious Jew.  I don’t shave or trim my beard.  I wear a yarmulke (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarmulke) on on) my head and I don’t shake hands with women (http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1051760/jewish/May-I-Shake-the-Ladys-Hand.htm).  I eat only Kosher food and leave work early on Friday in the winter to make it home in time for the Sabbath (though I make sure to get the necessary work done Saturday night or Sunday).  So I look and act somewhat different than many other professionals and I suppose that some companies might look down on that.  However, I still explicitly post my photo my blog, twitter, and LinkedIn account.

I do this for a few reasons; here’s what is what I told the individual who took my class.  First, I’m proud of who I am.  But more importantly from a professional perspective, I want prospective employers to know who I am regardless of (or even because of) what they may think of me (note: I am not currently looking for a job).  For one, my picture is memorable – this helps build my brand.  I have the same picture across all my branding outlets (and I used to have it on my business card too) so it’s very easy to remember me.  And frankly, I only want to work for employers that want me to work for them.  If an employer doesn’t like me for who I am, why should I wait until I step in the door and take time out of my day for an interview?  I want to weed them out from the start.