Employers screen students’ social networking sites

Leighann McGivern

While posting updates and pictures of partying and drinking on social networking sites may seem like harmless fun right now, these images could come back to haunt students in their future careers.

According to a 2010 Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, 73 percent of employers said they use social networking sites to screen potential employees.

Social networking sites are designed to connect people who share common interests and activities and today, include a wide range of sites from Facebook and Twitter to MySpace and LinkedIn.

Salina DuBose, a graduate appointee in Career Services, said she and the department give presentations to students about the benefits and risks of social networking.

“We show terrible pictures. We say, ‘Would you hire this person?’” DuBose said. “We always talk about if you really have something to say, there’s nothing wrong with buying a journal.”

Tori Vaccarelli, sophomore pre-nursing major, said she is cautious of what she posts on her Facebook page.

How to appear professional online:

1. Clean up digital dirt before you begin your job search. Remove any photos, content and links that could jeopardize your image in an employer’s eyes.

2. Consider creating your own professional group on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s a great way to establish relationships with others in your field and impress future employers.

3. Keep complaints offline. Keep the content you post focused on positive things, whether it’s related to professional or personal information. Don’t complain about current jobs online.

4. Be selective about whom you accept as friends. Don’t forget others can see your friends when they search for you. Monitor comments made by others and also comments you make to your friends. Even better, set your profile to private so only designated friends can view it.

“I untag myself from any inappropriate pictures, and I’m very careful about what I put on my statuses and wall posts,” Vaccarelli said. “I do not want a stupid night or status to come back to haunt me later in life.”

DuBose said a good way for students to learn how they appear to employers is to Google their names.

“I have Googled myself and found awards I won in high school and articles from my sports teams,” Vaccarelli said. “But I am very careful about what I put online.”

DuBose said she recommends that students create a LinkedIn profile designed specifically for reaching employers.

“LinkedIn is a great website because it’s a professional networking page and if you complete your page, that’s usually the number one thing that pops up in Google,” DuBose said.

While each of these sites has the option to set private profile settings, unless students take the steps to protect what they post, the primary settings on most social networking sites are public, which means anyone has access to their information.

“The fun Facebook from 2004, 2005 — it’s not there anymore,” DuBose said. “It’s also a way that employers are recruiting, and it’s seeming like that’s what it’s going to be from now on.”

Although DuBose said using social networking sites can be risky, she doesn’t feel that students should delete their profiles altogether.

“I have people that say ‘It’s not fair. What I do with my personal life is my personal life, and it shouldn’t affect my employment,’” DuBose said. “Unfortunately it can. Just make the appropriate adjustments.

Information from CareerBuilder.com

Contact Leighann McGivern at [email protected].