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Graduating students beware: social networking snafus can snag your job search

Seemingly innocent social networking activity can potentially hinder your job search.
Seemingly innocent social networking activity can potentially hinder your job search.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

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.

For assistance with your resume or any aspect of your career transition, feel free to contact Vivian at Eternal Vision Enterprises.

If you have a specific career transition question, or if you would like to suggest a topic, please leave a comment below.

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  • Kim Pearsall 5 years ago

    This is so relevant to the current employment trends. I actually presented this issue as a discussion topic in my fall semester College Success class. I plan to use this article to revisit the issue with my students this term. Great article Vivian!

  • Viv 5 years ago

    Kim: Thanks! I'm glad I could be a resource for your students -- even if it is from afar... Good luck with your class in the fall.

  • john w 5 years ago

    not just for recent grads but for any job seeker ... absolutely right

  • Viv 5 years ago

    John, you are so right. People at all levels seem to forget that your information is no longer private once you post it on a PUBLIC site!

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