One of the trendy articles I’ve seen recently in business trade publications is about cleaning up your social networking profiles so that you appear to be more professional for businesses looking to hire you. I’m of two minds on the subject. Removing egregious material is definitely important from a personal branding perspective, but only if it’s also part of you mitigating those most irresponsible parts of your personality in general. Removing that photo of you half into a bottle of Jack at 10 AM is secondary to not sneaking off to the restroom with a flask at work at 10 AM.

The counter viewpoint I want to offer is this: if you’re looking to work at a decent, humane company, then they should probably be okay with conventional photos and information about you outside of work that indicates you’re a human being with all of your glories and flaws. When I see a Facebook profile, for example, that has been sanitized to what’s effectively a cardboard cutout of a business professional, I question whether the person is a professional liar or a sociopath axe murderer.

Practice on the mountainside
I could see how this photo might concern a certain kind of recruiter or HR person.

There are supposed to be pictures of you having the occasional beverage of choice or hanging out with friends. There are supposed to be signs that you have a life outside of work and that you’re a normal, well-adjusted human, and speaking as someone who’s been in a hiring manager capacity for over a decade now, I want to hire people who have interesting lives. The more interesting and varied your life is outside of work, the more valuable different perspectives you will bring to work and the more you’ll think outside of the box in solving problems that will advance the business. Diversity in its truest sense has nothing to do with fairness or HR policy and everything to do with more perpsectives to solve problems that your competitors can’t bring to the table.

If a company screens you out of the employment process because they find a Facebook post with a political opinion objectionable or a photo of you with a beverage objectionable, then that’s [a] their loss and [b] not a place you probably want to work anyway, because the workplace is likely just as unpleasantly strict.

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