Is it really that serious?
It’s not unusual for a potential employer to do a background check on the candidate to whom they plan to offer the job. Most people assume that if they don’t have a criminal record, negative employment record, bad credit, or haven’t misrepresented their educational history, they have nothing to worry about. But, is that really the case? Not so, according to a study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). According to their research, employers not only perform the standard background checks, but also check sources such as Google, Yahoo, and popular social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Additionally, 40 percent of employers polled in a University of Dayton study indicated that they “would consider the content posted on a potential employee's Facebook profile as part of their hiring decision.”
Whose business is it anyway?
Many people believe that what they do on their own time is their own business, and should not be subject to scrutiny by potential employers. Consider the employer’s point of view, however. Many employers would prefer not to see their young employees, interns or potential managers online, dressed inappropriately or scantily clad, holding a beer or marijuana cigarette, or possibly even passed out on the floor during a party. In the minds of many employers, the way you carry yourself after hours has a lot to do with the kind of person you really are, and the effects of such behaviors can possibly spill over into the workplace and detract from your effectiveness.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have grown so much in popularity that what was once intended for just a small group of friends or classmates is now available on a much wider basis. So, how can you maintain the integrity of your profile as it was intended for your friends, and still make a good impression on employers if they should happen to stumble upon (or intentionally seek out) your profile? Some good rules of thumb are:
• Limit who can view your profile – both Facebook and MySpace have security features that allow you to make your profile “private” or viewable only by those who have been accepted as “friends”
• Be careful about what information and which pictures you post – keep the larger picture in mind as you add information to your profile
• Check to see who has “tagged” you in photos that you did not post – you may have to ask friends to remove photos that present you in a negative light, at least until you have completed your job search
• Block inappropriate posts – enable security settings that allow you to view and approve comments before they are posted on your profile
• Be careful about joining groups that would cast a negative light on you and turn off potential employers
• Use your site to promote yourself – In your “About Me” section, list skills and accomplishments that help to sell you to an employer. Many musicians, vocalists and businesspersons already do this on their own pages
• Consider also joining professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, which will allow you to network with like-minded professionals and also search for jobs in your field
While social networking sites definitely have their place and provide an outlet for staying connected, students need to put their best foot forward with potential employers. That includes ensuring that any public information doesn’t cast them in a negative light.
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