Don’t Let an Algorithm Determine if You’re Worth Hiring or Not

Opinion: Online screening has skyrocketed over the last few years

Was it something he posted?

What you post on social media and the strength of your personal brand will have a direct impact on your career in this industry.

Online screening has skyrocketed over the last few years. We all leave a giant footprint on the web, and organizations increasingly use that data to make important decisions about us. Our online presence now affects our ability to get into college, get a job or even get a credit card. It may sound like a black mirror episode, but it’s a reality.

No area exemplifies this shift more than the employment arena. According to a CareerBuilder study, 70 percent of employers now screen you online, up 500 percent since 2009. This means that before you even get an interview, an algorithm is sifting through every single post, tag or Google result associated with you to determine if you’re worth hiring. In fact, these human resources assessment technologies are now a $100 billion industry.

I don’t believe an algorithm should determine if you’re worth hiring. While they may save a company time, they’re often inaccurate and unfair, penalizing people for issues that aren’t their fault and rewarding people who simply fit a particular mold. This means that if you’re not proactive, you could lose opportunities you otherwise deserve.

Recently, Silicon Valley has been accused of being out of touch. As artificial intelligence threatens to replace millions of jobs and our electronic devices become increasingly invasive, Silicon Valley continues to pour billions of dollars into technologies without questioning if they do more harm than good.

We at BrandYourself believe that as it stands now, online screening is one of those technologies. We do not believe an algorithm alone should determine who is worth hiring and who isn’t. Why?

Negative Google results are often the product of cyberbullying, and that shouldn’t ruin your career: More than 50 percent of employers have turned down candidates because of negative results in Google. This is concerning, because a negative result can happen to anyone, even if it’s not your fault. Think about it. All it takes is one person—a vindictive ex, an employee you fired, a professional competitor—to go online and anonymously trash you. It happens all the time, and there is very little protecting you. In fact, most laws protect the publishers in these situations, rather than the victim.

Being targeted online can hurt your career prospects and it happens way more often than you think:

  • 73 percent of American adults have witnessed online harassment, and 70 percent of young Americans say they have been victims themselves, according to Pew Research Center.
  • Experts predict that as many as 40 percent of all Americans will be digitally shamed, according to Hate Crimes in Cyberspace by Danielle Keats Citron.

This is especially concerning when you consider that cyberbullying often disproportionately affects women, who are already underrepresented in industry sectors like tech.

For example, revenge porn is one of the most extreme forms of cyberbullying, and it affects women much more often than men. In fact, according to a recent report from the Data & Society Research Institute, 6 percent of U.S. women have been victims of revenge porn (50 percent higher than the national average), and 10 percent of U.S. women have been threatened with revenge porn.

This isn’t to say that every negative Google result is the product of cyberbullying and that nobody deserves a bad reputation.

However, if a negative result is accurate, it doesn’t always reflect an individual’s full character. In a world where everything online is written in permanent ink, people deserve to tell their version of a story.

While it may be easy to ignore until it happens to you, a single event shouldn’t dictate your entire professional career.