Theres another task you might find yourself adding to your pre-interview to-do list if a new company, Social Sweepster, has its way: Scanning and scrubbing your Facebook and Twitter pages for pictures and other posts that might make a prospective employer think twice about offering you a job.
Tom McGrath, a graduate of Indiana Universitys class of 2013, saw an opportunity to help job seekers find potentially damaging material on their social media accounts using so-called computer vision technology, and so he founded Social Sweepster. While he hasnt been alone in devising services to help people on the job market tidy up their Facebook and Twitter accounts, Social Sweepster offers something that the competition hasnt yet matched: attention not only to text, but also to photos.
Two other companies say they can search your social media accounts for things that might raise red flags when youre hunting for a job. SimpleWash scans your Facebook and Twitter accounts for keywords that might point to objectionable material. You can search for terms on their Undesirable content list (or use keywords of your own devising) to find things youve said that you might regret, resulting in what the service promises will be a newer, cleaner you, at least online.
Another company, Socially Clean, says it will analyse your Facebook profile and the posts youve made on your friends pages, helping you delete posts until you ensure that your Facebook page has a Socially Clean Rating of 100%.
But while both services can read the text posted with pictures on Facebook or Twitter, neither can analyse the photos themselves. After years of using Facebook, Twitter and other social media services in high school and college, many people have either posted or been tagged in many online pictures, often with little in the way of scannable captions. McGrath says that finding potentially problematic images associated with your identity online would be easier if his computers did the work for you, and offers this capability as his competitive edge.
If you grant Social Sweepster access to your Facebook or Twitter accounts, it begins scanning your timelines as far back as 2005. Its filters will unearth pictures containing objects determined with a high degree of confidence to be potentially objectionable.
The technology goes searching for beer cans or bottles or the red cups that are ubiquitous at any college party and flags the individual images that contain them. You can then click through to the image on Facebook to delete it, untag yourself or ask a friend to make it disappear. The service is in beta right now, and McGrath says the company will let users sweep a few months of photos on their timelines free before charging for a lengthier scan.
The object recognition is not perfect. The first picture it selected from my accounts showed my wife standing in front of a sign the day we picked up our marriage licence in New York City. A glare from the sign registered as a beer can.
But the fourth image it flagged came from a fun night during my graduate studies. The service determined with a confidence level of 64% that a bottle of Indonesian beer in that picture was, in fact, a bottle of Indonesian beer. And deeper in the results it located a woman in the background of a picture holding a red cup that I had never before noticed. Even if the service had a lot of false positives, perhaps better safe than sorry is the right principle when it comes to a service like this one.
While Social Sweepster can help you screen some pictures that might be associated with your identity online, how many people will actually be willing to pay for it The argument has recently been advanced that oversharing has become the cultural norm, and businesses can no longer afford to screen out employees whose Facebook profiles are pasted with pictures of collegiate revelry because everyone does it. McGrath was unfazed by that argument.
If you spent all this money on a college education and youll spend $5 on a coffee, why not prevent the slightest chance that a potential employer will be upset he said. Were providing additional insurance.
And in an era where some parents are going as far as accompanying their young adult offspring to job interviews, its not too much of a stretch to imagine that he might be right.