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Your digital footprint could kill your career

Social media activity coupled with implicit online activity like casual web search or browsing, online shopping, blogging, calling ‘and texting all contribute to building a richly accurate digital footprint.


In case you want to have a glimpse of how much of your personal information is freely available online, start by conducting a simple Google search of your name. In the unlikely circumstances you don’t find any relevant information or at least photographs, then you have not existed – online that is. If you have an email, a social media account or any kind of online presence, it is likely there are traces of your personal information openly out there. Scientists are calling these traces of online personal information the digital footprint.

How significant is this digital footprint ‘and what opportunities does it portend for the modern recruitment ‘and human resource managers?  Should today’s job seekers care about their digital footprint?

International Telecommunications Union – ITU estimates that in 2017, more than half of the global population uses the Internet. That number is about 3.75 billion of the entire 7.3 billion global population. Strikingly, the number of active social media users hit 2.5 billion in 2017. Statista extimates that the population of social media users will hit 3.02 billion by 2021.

Social media

What these trends ‘and statistics indicate is that social media is the key contributor to our digital footprint. With the incessant posting, commenting, liking, sharing ‘and forwarding, there is adequate digital footprint to build a complete personal profile of any average Internet user – hassle free.

Social media activity coupled with implicit online activity like casual web search, online shopping, blogging, calling ‘and texting all contribute to building a richly accurate digital footprint.

While a digital footprint has its benefits ‘and costs ramifications, in reality, it boils down to how you underst ‘and ‘and manage your online presence. Your footprint can contribute to a positive online reputation, enabling you to repeatedly log in to websites or submit personal details. On the other h ‘and, it may allow others to follow your online history such as the sites you visit, what you search for, who are your friends ‘and what you like. This means people ‘and organisations can build profiles about you without your knowledge or consent.

Implications for HR

This is where the modern human resource manager needs to pay attention. A 2012 joint research conducted in the UK revealed that one in five bosses have rejected a job applicant after checking their profile on social media. Tonnes of personal information lying openly online can be searched ‘and retrieved without requiring any form of authentication or authorisation, ‘and without the faintest knowledge of the concerned individuals.

A 2016 report by Jobvite notes that at least 87 per cent of recruiters checked LinkedIn accounts of their potential c ‘andidates, 43 per cent checked Facebook ‘and 22 per cent checked Twitter.

Social media is enabling recruiters ‘and human resource managers to peek into personality, behaviour ‘and character of their staff ‘and potential recruits. According to CareerBuilder, recruiters want to know in advance about the professional presentation of their potential c ‘andidates ‘and how the c ‘andidate would fit in the company culture. Mostly, they are looking for information that might not be available on the curriculum vitae ‘and that might be difficult to extract from a formal interview.

By analysing the online social data of employees ‘and potential c ‘andidates, organisations can discover ‘and predict behavioural issues that can hinder performance or jeopardise their corporate image.

Artificial intelligence algorithms such as the Association Rule are being tested on analysing human behaviour against social circles. This means that with enough data, it is possible to pick out a bad guy by just examining their friendship circles.

Benson Mugambi is an Information Management specialist at Tullow Oil PLC (Nairobi)


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