Put Your Best Face(book) Forward
How your online profile can damage your chances of getting a job:
When a recruiter looks at your application they may use any number of criteria to guide them in making an informed decision: grades, awards, summer internships, volunteer experience, computer skills, and more. If your resume is well-crafted and you meet the qualifications, you might think you are a shoe-in for the job. So what happens when that recruiter decides to Google you? What happens when that recruiter finds you on MySpace? Even worse, what happens when that recruiter finds you on Facebook? (Yes, this IS possible!) With one click of the mouse all your professional experience, grades, and glowing recommendations from professors can become obsolete.
While sites like Facebook and MySpace are great for networking with friends and acquaintances now, you have to start thinking about who might have access to your information now and a year or 2 years or 5 years from now. It is not unheard of for a recruiter at a company or graduate school to look up candidates on these websites. There are currently over 7 million Facebook users and the site receives over 250 million hits per day. MySpace has over 90 million registered users. If you think your fellow college students are the only people viewing your "private" information, you are wrong!
Just because it seems unlikely that an interviewer would access your online profiles, doesn't mean they won't. Be especially wary when applying for government jobs. Under the Patriot Act, government agencies can gain access to all of your online information regardless of privacy settings.
Not Job Hunting Yet?
Don't be fooled into thinking that you can put anything you want online now and just take it off before you start your job search. Putting something on the Internet is like getting a tattoo – it lasts forever! Search engines like Google and Yahoo keep copies of all the pages they find (notice the "cached" link when you do a search.) This means that if they copy your page today and you change it tomorrow, the original version (the one you don't want employers to see) still exists and can be accessed.
The best thing to do is play it safe from the start – don't put anything online that you wouldn't want everyone to see!!
What to do:
1. Google yourself.
Fully investigate any link with your name attached to it. If you find something you don't think is appropriate, you may have to email Google or the website's editor in order to get your name removed. This process is more complex than it may seem, so be persistent. Don't forget to use quotation marks around your name.
2. Clean up your Facebook account.
• Remove or de-tag any pictures you would not want your future boss to see. Though you may not like the idea of removing them now, it will pay off in the long run.
• Remove inappropriate wall posts. What your friends say about you can be just as damaging as what you say about yourself.
• Keep it "PG." Use what your professors might find offensive as a guide. Though you might write something as a joke, others might not see it that way.
3. Use privacy settings.
MySpace is public domain. Unlike Facebook used to be, anyone can now join and easily view your personal information. What you write about yourself or your friends can be misconstrued by others who may end up with a negative opinion of you. Think about changing the settings so that only your friends can view your profile. (Although remember that government agencies will still be able to access your information.)
TIP: Use your online profiles to help you get a job. A Facebook or MySpace profile can be used to your advantage. Let your profiles become an extension of your resume. Write positive things about yourself in the "interests" and "activities" sections and demonstrate your passion for the career field of your choice. Post pictures of yourself using their product or performing a service they provide. It may sound silly, but you should take every opportunity you have to convince an employer that you are smart, responsible, and hardworking.