I wanted to play devil’s advocate with myself a little bit concerning online candidate brands and whether or not employers really have the right to consider your off-the-clock persona when making hiring decisions. We have the perfect example in Mel Gibson. Think of Mel as the ultimate jobseeker. He has some of the most lucrative skills and candidate brand in the world. Mel has been hired many many many times. Mel IS top talent and delivers for his employers. He has won Academy Awards, Golden Globes, People Choice Awards, etc.
With his Tequila party and resulting DUI arrest caught on camera; with his Mug Shot being shown everywhere online; with the charges brought against him this week; and with the reports surfacing that Mel made anti-Semitic remarks…well, many people say that his highly successful career will never survive this.
The story is still getting constant attention on the web and in the blogoshere (It is the #1 Technorati Search) – it is a perfect illustration of how the online “coverage” of your offline persona can forever damage you as a job candidate. In Mel’s case – while he has issued two apologies about what people are seeing and hearing – it kinda doesn’t matter. The “Mel the boozing anti-semite” perception won’t just go away.
To be honest – I really like Mel Gibson and always thought of him as an extremely sexy and funny guy (especially with his Aussie accent – but maybe I am biased). It is funny how seeing photos and video of people make us feel like we know them even if what we perceive is right on or off base from reality. While I feel that it is important to allow people to be real and authentic (anyone else getting sick of that word?) – I also truly believe that your brand as an employer is at its heart made up of your employees.
Please don’t say I told you so
While I still think that it is wrong to go “digging” for digital dirt without at least giving the candidate a heads up that this is part of your procedure – I do understand that employers are using the photos and videos and blog posts that are available to them as a way to get to know their candidates better. When they find a tequila party – it makes them have to stop and think about how you as an employee may affect their brand. What Mel Gibson is reminding us of is that there is a line, it’s invisible, but when you step over it, and it is forever captured by media, all bets are off. The same is true for candidates and companies using digital dirt in their hiring decisions.