Up until fairly recently there was a limited pool of information available to the potential employer. There was the CV, the covering letter, candidate appearance, their interview performance and their references.
Today there is an added source of information about candidates and that is their digital footprint. Your online presence can give an employer huge amounts of information about you, particularly if you have low privacy settings on Facebook or an unprotected Twitter account.
Even if an account doesn't use your real name, it doesn't always prevent people finding out who you are and forming opinions about you from the content you post.
People are incredibly open about their lives and their feelings on social media. On one hand, it's what makes it an interesting and vibrant medium. On the other hand, it can provide anyone that wants it with an unedited overview into your world. It's important, so I'll mention it again: Make sure your privacy settings are set up properly.
Although I have been involved in the recruitment process in previous roles, it was before the widespread adoption of social media. To get a more up to date view I asked Kerri-Ann Hargreaves from WWB Recruitment for her opinion.
Personally I use social media and never thought my personal comments would be looked upon negatively. Thankfully they haven't and I give no cause for them to be. My Facebook page has strict privacy settings and I don't use twitter to chat with friends, it's a medium for me to exchange information, chat professionally, seek out new products and work peers.
However, in my role as a recruitment consultant I have experienced quite the opposite. Recently a candidate was declined an offer of employment because of the content on her twitter account. On reviewing it I completely understand although believed that the said individual was behaving in a naive manner. She was conversing with friends as if in a private text message with the use of profanity, aggressive and slanderous language. Although at times we all enter into conversations which are not meant for others to hear, these should not take place out in the social space for others to see and judge.
I believe in the traditional method of judging an individual, a face to face meeting, a gut feeling and of course references. Sadly the restrictions businesses put on references have pushed business leaders to search for further information.
So there you have it: It's not just an urban myth. The practice may not be widespread, but it can mean the difference between a successful and a failed application.
If a potential employer was to look at your social media output over the last month, what impression would they form of you?