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Virtual Judgments

by Eve Ash

07 March 2011

A CEO of a small business told me he was doing interviews for a new position and checked the applicants' Facebook pages. I wondered whether this was fair. He argued that it was public information and if the people wanted to remain private they could set their Facebook to private. And from the Facebook pages he found out a range of things. On the negative side:

- A tendency to party and be late for or miss work
- Drug taking and heavy alcohol consumption
- Negative talk about employers

On the positive side:

- Care for elderly parents
- Involvement in a charity run
- Enthusiasm for work

We are certainly in a different world where many people have a larger presence as a virtual person than as someone in real life! Much of our day-to-day work involves emailing strangers and building relationships with no voice or visual contact with that person. Our emails create an impression. WE need to always be aware of that fact as we go about our business. And for those of you that have never met me - you are probably making a virtual judgment right now!

We need need to be very careful about the image we portray on twitter, Facebook and other social networks. If our image is important for work then maybe we should be careful about what is on our Facebook. But do we need to worry about who we are connected to on Facebook or who we follow on Twitter. Will judgements be made that could disadvantage us?

Thirty years ago I went for a job producing a video for a business group. I knew I was the best applicant for the job with the best credentials. I called to get feedback after hearing I didn't get the job. I was very open to learn what I needed to do better to improve. Feedback is good for us - it helps us improve. I was told my credentials were excellent and I had the relevant experience and my budget was within the range, and ideally they had wanted to choose a woman as it was to produce a program on sexual harassment. BUT they had chosen a man that they felt would do the job better than me. I tried not to choke and asked for more specific feedback and was amazed to hear that they felt I didn't present as a professional in the way I dressed. I asked for advice on what they felt I should be wearing to such interviews. At the time I never worea business suit, instead chose designer Australian knitted jackets and vests that was made by leading Australian artists. I thanked them.

Then I had to make a big decision for the future of my business - which REALLY felt annoying! I had to go and buy a suit.

That was thirty years ago. The first impression is important and not wearing a suit created a barrier for me IF I wanted the big corporate jobs. Easy decision.

So what do you need to do to make a good virtual impression if this is important to your business?