Finance Column » Your Money This Week » Yellen: Hoping to be boring

Yellen: Hoping to be boring

By Mark Hamrick · Bankrate.com
Monday, July 14, 2014
Posted 6 am ET

There's a maxim in Washington public relations that people who keep things out of the news are paid the most. This urban lore in the nation's capital suggests these unsplashy sorts make more money than their counterparts who hustle to push things into the headlines.

The low-key approach might be the choice Fed Chair Janet Yellen takes as she heads to Capitol Hill this week. It is likely she'll try to be boring and not to make news as the Federal Reserve waits for more data to help define a more exact time frame for a possible interest rate hike. That won't prevent members of the Senate and House panels from trying to pry such indications from her.

Here's what's on tap this week:

  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testifies on monetary policy before the Senate Banking Committee, Tuesday at 10 a.m. (All times Eastern.)
  • The Commerce Department reports on June retail sales, Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
  • The Labor Department releases the June Producer Price Index, Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
  • The Federal Reserve reports on June industrial production, Wednesday at 9:15 a.m.
  • Fed Chair Yellen testifies on monetary policy to the House Financial Services Committee, Wednesday at 10 a.m.
  • The Federal Reserve's Beige Book survey is released, Wednesday at 2 p.m.
  • The Commerce Department reports on June housing starts, Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Bankrate Audio

Social media tips for job seekers

Would your tweets and posts turn off an employer? Find out if your social media presence needs polishing.

Mark Hamrick

Washington Bureau Chief, Bankrate.com

Jennifer Grasz

Spokeswoman, CareerBuilder

Tom McGrath

Founder, Social Sweepster

Lucas Wysocki

Multimedia Producer, Bankrate.com

Transcript

Mark Hamrick: From Bankrate.com, this is "Your Money This Week."

I'm Mark Hamrick in Washington.

Social media. It's transformed the world in some ways, changing the way people connect. It's been credited (or blamed) for uprisings against governments, for example.

But our focus today is how it can affect your financial life -- specifically your career, for better and for worse.

Our first guest is from CareerBuilder, providing proof that how you manage your online image has a direct impact on career. And we'll have a conversation with the founder of a new site, called Social Sweepster, which is meant to help you clean up your image.

We'll help you to optimize, or give a makeover, to your social media presence, and maybe even help your professional (or money-making) life at the same time.

All of that and more coming up on "Your Money This Week."

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For our first segment, we turn to Jennifer Grasz of CareerBuilder.

Her company has been surveying companies to find out how they look at sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, when weighing job candidates.

We asked her about the latest survey findings.

Jennifer Grasz: Right, so this is a nationwide study that CareerBuilder conducted of over 2,000 employers. And when you think about it, social media has become integral to how people communicate, how they keep in touch personally and professionally, and it is increasingly becoming a tool employers will use to discover more information about a potential employee. So in our study, we found that 43 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. That is up from 39 percent last year and 36 percent in 2012. So it is important that you convey a positive image online.

Mark Hamrick: And so, most now have disqualified job candidates because what they have seen online, and I imagine the reasons for that disqualification take a variety of forms. Tell me what you know about that.

Jennifer Grasz: Yeah, you are certainly right there. You know, half of employers who research job candidates on social media said they found some content that caused them not to hire the candidate. That is actually up from 53 percent last year. You know, a lot of times when people are posting things on social profiles, it is very in-the-moment. You know, they are out with friends somewhere, they are celebrating an event or on vacation, etc. And what seemed like a good idea to share in that moment may come back to haunt you, if what you are posting or what somebody else is posting about you puts you in a less favorable light.

So some of the things that employers said that prompted them to eliminate candidates from consideration, it varied from someone posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information to people posting information about drinking or using drugs, or maybe they badmouthed their previous company or a fellow employee. Maybe they had discriminatory comments related to race or gender or religion. This is a big one: They lied about their qualifications or they shared confidential information from previous employers or, you know, if they were linked to criminal behavior. There were all kinds of things that their social media profile had revealed, that caused these employers to say, "You know what? This person is not going to be the right fit."

Mark Hamrick: And something that surprised me, although I suppose I should have thought of this, some employers found material that made them more likely to hire someone.

Jennifer Grasz: Yeah, we have heard that from employers who were saying, "You know, really, when I am doing is additional research, I want confirmation that this is the right candidate. I want to see that they are well-rounded, that what is out there about them on the Internet matches what I have seen in the interview and am seeing on their resume." And, a third of them said they actually found content that made them more likely to hire the candidate. So, you know, they got a good feel for that job candidate's personality, they can see that the person would be a good fit within their company culture, the candidate's background information supported their professional qualifications for the job. Or the job candidate's profile conveyed a professional image, showed a wide range of interests, you know, showed great communication skills or creativity. Maybe that candidate was somebody that received a lot of awards, or accolades or other people posted great references about the job candidate. That is another thing that they look for.

And this is interesting, too: The employers paid attention to whether or not that candidate had interacted with their company's social media accounts. And they did pay attention to how many followers or subscribers that particular candidate had.

Mark Hamrick: There you go. So you can, in a way, get a job by managing your Twitter account well.

Jennifer Grasz: (Laughs) Right. I mean, that is the thing. These employers will look for a sign, you know: Is this someone that is very knowledgeable about a particular topic? Or, you know, just even with your interacting socially, are you doing that a way that projects a positive image?

Mark Hamrick: So what are some of the takeaways for people out there who are aspiring to be employed or to find a job that is more to their liking? Let's talk about dos and don'ts, and the don'ts first. I mean, I guess it is obvious to some of us that the picture that shows you inebriated or talking about that you are linked with an escort service or bragging about driving drunk or involved in a demonic cult -- some of the examples you cited -- those seem like they are obvious. But are there some things that are more nuanced that people might not be aware of?

Jennifer Grasz: You know, and yeah, you gave some of the examples of some of the strangest things that employers said that they have actually seen on social media profiles, and those were real-life examples, which is scary enough. But we do see -- you know, a lot of the common mistakes are people voicing negative comments about a previous employer in some way, shape, or form. Or talking about something in relation to that employer or a client that they should not have been making public. You know, and that is something that is a huge turnoff for an employer, because not only are they looking at, you know, are you somebody that has a good image online and can communicate effectively and you are creative in the way that you communicate. They are also looking for what kind of past employee were you with other organizations. You know, and if you are somebody that is posting information that is negative about a previous employer, then chances are you may do the same about my company, so I am not going to move forward with you.

Mark Hamrick: That is a great point, Jenny, because I think a lot of people make the mistake to think that the relationship they have with their employer might end at the time their employment ceases. But the truth is, many of these relationships probably ought to be viewed by many people as a lifelong relationship, shouldn't they?

Jennifer Grasz: That is a really important point, Mark. You know, you want to make sure that you do not burn bridges. You know, even if it was not an ideal work situation, you still want to make sure that you are leaving on a good note, that you are focusing on: What did I learn from that experience? So that is what you emphasize to the new employer. You know, you do not want to go into an interview, or you do not want to convey something online that says, "You know, I did not like this employer for A, B, and C reasons." What you want to focus on: "Here is what I learned from that company, and this is how I can put it to use for your organization."

Mark Hamrick: So I guess the counter of that, the dos, would be then just to try to portray as positive a personality as you can within reason that can affirm your professional life, right?

Jennifer Grasz: Yeah. I mean, I think that you want to look at what are those opportunities for you to include information that will make you a more viable candidate for an employer. You know, we mentioned some of those, about sharing information about awards or accolades that you may have received, or you know, if other people are posting great references about you.

You know, I also would caution people to be mindful about whatever you are posting and monitor what others are saying about you. If you see something that is inappropriate, ask that person to remove it. You also want to look at managing your privacy settings on your social profiles. You know, you can have a public setting, you can have a private setting. You have got to figure out what is going to make sense for you.

And then, you know, you can also look at -- there are different companies that are out there that are popping up that will monitor your online persona for you and let you know if any red flags appear, so you can correct them before an employer sees anything.

Mark Hamrick: Jennifer Grasz. She's a vice president for CareerBuilder. She spoke with us from her office in Chicago.

(TRANSITION)

Let's say you realize your social media image isn't quite where it needs to be. There's an entrepreneur who hopes he has just the thing to help.

Tom McGrath has begun a business called Social Sweepster that takes a look at what you have online -- and cleans it up. And as it now stands, it's a free service.

To begin, I asked Tom how it all works.

Tom McGrath: So, Social Sweepster is an online application that uses a combination of some pretty cool technology on both image recognition and natural language processing to scan through your various social media profiles, whether it is Facebook and Twitter, and find anything that may be potentially incriminating, or if a potential or recruiter or perhaps even your grandma would look down upon, and help you get it erased from your social media presence.

Mark Hamrick: And as of now, it is a free service, right?

Tom McGrath: Yes, it is a free service.

Mark Hamrick: And are you hoping at some point to offer premium edition as if to help you to make money off the service?

Tom McGrath: Yes, there will be a premium model put together where we will likely offer our text-scanning for free, so you will be able to get rid of all the comments, and statuses, and tweets. But then as an upgrade to the premium, we'll provide things like reverse-image search, the object recognition, maybe even some facial recognition to find untagged pictures, elsewhere not just on social media but across the Internet. We'll have that and also perhaps the ability to make backups of your data as well from the different social networks if you wanted, if you're deleting these things, getting ready for college but you wanted to save some of them. You can go ahead and do that through our service.

Mark Hamrick: You know, we talk all the time about how human resource professionals use social media to essentially qualify or disqualify potential employees. I suppose in some cases also current employees. Is the problem of inappropriate posts do you think more prevalent among younger people, or are people of all ages essentially "guilty"?

Tom McGrath: I mean, I think people of all ages are probably guilty. I think for the most part it is the younger generation, and it is not necessarily that they are doing it now. It is in their past and they are just growing up 18, 19. 21, 22. They think it is really cool to have a beer bottle in the picture, and they are taking lots of these pictures, and by the time they are ready to get the job and they are not doing those things anymore, they have just built up this archive. They need to go back and do some spring cleaning.

Mark Hamrick: I guess in a sense, I mean I know it's technology that's doing this work, but I'm guessing that you had to sort of do some human inspection to get the service going. What did you find when you looked at people's social media profiles, and I am guessing you looked across the spectrum of sites such as Linked In and Facebook? What did you find?

Tom McGrath: I am finding that Instagram seemed to be the more risqué social platform, and maybe that is just a function of younger people being on it. Facebook, you will find the most information about people, that is for sure. With the privacy settings, they are very strange. You put your privacy settings up, so, for example, to block out certain people, and for reason it does not work all the time, and so I can find photos on people pretty easily even without my service. None of my stuff is out there, you can use something called Facebook graph search, and I type in photos of that person. You are going to find all these tagged photos of that person, just on other people's profiles that did not put their privacy settings up.

Mark Hamrick: Well, you actually fast forwarded to a question I was going to ask you, which was, based on the premise that Facebook's privacy settings are imperfect. Do you think that people have relied on those settings too heavily? In other words, it is probably a good idea not to post something that is questionable at all, correct?

Tom McGrath: Yeah, a big thing about our service is not necessarily about hiding things. It is about creating an opportunity to highlight the good things about you. I almost tell people, do not delete your accounts, do not jack up your privacy settings. You spent years building up an image, a personality online, you should want to present that to recruiters because a lot of people now are using social media to solicit and screen candidates. It makes a lot of sense to use your Facebook and Twitter as a vehicle to get those jobs. If you do not, you are just taking yourself out of the game, and job competition is so fierce and you are just losing out on potential opportunities.

Mark Hamrick: Now, obviously it is obviously I think best practices to manage your identity online in a positive way. But it has also been said that once that you have something out there, it never goes away. Is that really true?

Tom McGrath: I guess in a sense yeah, I know that for some companies. They absolutely have a backup of something. So, I am pretty sure with Facebook, if you were to delete something yeah, it is an easy avenue to get to that information through your Facebook profile is gone. But if you were subpoenaed or Facebook was subpoenaed and you committed some crime, I believe that they are actually supposed to hold on that data for about five years.

Mark Hamrick: Social Sweepster being a new company, and obviously you are getting a lot attention for having done this, you are not the only company in the space, but I do understand that the way that you are going about this is unique, correct?

Tom McGrath: So, we are just unique in the fact that we are the only company using image recognition. So, there is a couple of services out there that are using text recognition to be able to flag the words. Like I said, they have keywords like alcohol, beer, champagne, to be able to be common statuses, and potentially pictures as well. But when I started building this service, we had done the text recognition and we were just missing out on so much of the photos and things that were potential liabilities. So, we decided to add the image recognition component in, which is pretty difficult, it is pretty advanced. Now, that allows us to get a lot of that other stuff that the other guys were missing. It kind of gives you a more hollistic clean.

Mark Hamrick: Well, congratulations for coming up with something that is truly innovative. And, at the end of the day, it's something that can help people to manage their images. There is plenty of evidence out there to indicate that people are not always doing a great job with that. So, it is helpful in that way. Tom, thanks for your time and good luck.

Tom McGrath: Thank you very much.

Tom McGrath. He's CEO and founder of Social Sweepster.

(TRANSITION)

When you've landed the job you want, or maybe you just want to keep it, you'll want to keep a good thing going. For our report, we turn to Bankrate's Lucas Wysocki:

You might think you're safe to post whatever, whenever, once you've landed your new job, but think twice. You could stunt your career or worse.

In your first days at work, you'll likely make lots of new friends. Carefully consider who you add to your social networks. One expert says that friending your boss can lead to trouble without there being much upside. On the flipside, don't unfriend old colleagues or bash previous jobs. There's no need to burn a bridge. In fact, keeping friends helps advertise that you have a network of professionals and are respected by your peers. Even though you're excited about the job, there's no need to brag about salary, bonuses or even a great interview. Employers consider that confidential information and will think twice the next time you're up for a bonus or promotion. Finally, don't participate in Facebook Fridays. If you can avoid it, don't check or post to social media at all during work hours. For more on jobs and careers, visit Bankrate.com. I'm Lucas Wysocki.

(TRANSITION)

This week in business history:
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July 17, 1955. Disneyland in Anaheim, California, was dedicated and opened by the man himself, Walt Disney.

From it further grew a theme park and branding empire.

The next big expansion would come in Orlando, Florida, with Walt Disney World. Parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Shanghai have followed.

As for where it all began, Disneyland, even approaching middle age, it's as popular as ever.

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You've been listening to "Your Money This Week."

For more on this and other personal finance issues, visit Bankrate.com. Thanks to editor Doug Whiteman and producer Lucas Wysocki for his work in the studio.

I'm Mark Hamrick. From all of us here at Bankrate, here's hoping you have a great week.

Embed Audio

 

Spotlight on Janet

The minutes of the Fed's last policy-setting meeting, released last week, indicate that the central bank's asset purchases are likely to end after the October meeting. Chair Yellen famously uttered at a news conference a few months ago that the first interest rate hike could come six months after asset purchases end.

Maybe, maybe not.

The economy has been remarkably inconsistent when it comes to growth, contracting at an annual rate of nearly 3 percent in the first quarter. Will there be real news on rates when Yellen testifies? "Fed-watching at this point is still an unexciting sport," says Robert King, senior economist with the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center. He says rate hike speculation is "premature."

Growth roller-coaster ride

The Fed has been forced to repeatedly downgrade its forecasts for growth. Such a downward revision was part of the economic projections issued during the June Fed meeting. The Fed's "magic numbers "on growth for 2014 are now between 2.1 and 2.3 percent.

At Moody's Analytics, economists are currently looking for growth in the just-completed second quarter of 3.2 percent. But Ryan Sweet, a director at Moody's, says the growth rate for the April-June period may end up being as high as 3.5 percent. He thinks that could be the case for the second half of 2014.

Even so, risks remain. The steady improvement in the economy in recent years has led some people to "underestimate how fragile" and "how at-risk," the economy is, says King.

In business history: Disneyland

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland was dedicated in Anaheim, California, by Walt Disney himself. The venture would grow into a theme park and branding empire. The next big expansion would come in Orlando, Florida, with Walt Disney World. Parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong have followed, and Shanghai is in the works.

Follow me on Twitter: @Hamrickisms

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