Employers may be eyeing students’ Facebook accounts

Kate Bigam

Students who posted photographic evidence of last weekend’s Halloween antics on Facebook may want to think twice about going public with their pictures.

A new study conducted by CareerBuilder.com reported that 26 percent of all employers use the Internet to research employment candidates before hiring.

According to the report, which was released Oct. 26, one in ten hiring managers uses a social networking Web site such as Facebook or MySpace to screen potential employees. After discovering new information online, 63 percent of employers chose not to hire candidates based on their discoveries.

Laura Morsch, career adviser for CBcampus.com, the college-focused division of CareerBuilder.com, said students should realize everything they put online becomes public information.

“One of the most interesting statistics is that of those who dismissed a candidate based on information on the Web, 31 percent had discovered that the candidate had lied about his or her qualifications,” Morsch said. “This implies that candidates are being more honest on their social networking profiles than they are on their r‚sum‚s.”

The study asked managers to list what types of information discovered online had caused them to dismiss potential employees. The top three reasons were discovering that candidates:

• Lied about job qualifications

• Possessed poor communication skills

• Engaged in criminal behavior

Amanda Peel, business administration graduate student, said she isn’t surprised that so many employers are using the Internet to research potential candidates.

“I understand why, because if people are doing things in their personal lives, it can affect your job performance,” she said. “But there is a point where your personal life is your personal life.”

Peel said she wouldn’t mind if an employer did a Google search on her, but is less comfortable with the idea of an employer surfing her MySpace page.

Freshman pre-architecture major Zach Durbin said he, too, would be uncomfortable knowing a potential employer had researched him online.

“That’s a personal site,” Durbin said of sites such as Facebook and MySpace. “If I want them to know about me, I’ll give them my r‚sum‚. It’s a site for your friends, not for employers.”

Durbin said if he knew an employer might look him up, he would consider changing the privacy settings on his personal sites, a precautionary move Morsch suggests to all students.

“If you don’t want your interviewer to know that you danced on a bar last weekend, don’t post the pictures,” she said. “If you don’t want your boss to know that you played hooky on Friday, watch your comments page to make sure that none of your friends are giving away too much information.”

In a press release from CareerBuilder.com, Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for the Web site, offered suggestions to students concerned with their online professional image.

“Remember, everything on the Internet is archived, so there is no eraser,” Haefner said.

• Watch your language — Beware of posting derogatory comments, swear words and dirty jokes, all of which can tarnish your professional image.

• Act smart — Using poor spelling and grammar on your personal sites gives off the impression that you are uneducated, turning away potential employers.

• Keep it private — If possible, change your profile settings so only friends can view your sites, and keep snooping employers out.

• Google yourself — Search your own name periodically to find out what potential employers will find out about you if they do a Web search.

• Explain away — If a potential employer questions you about something he or she found online, have a professional explanation ready.

Contact enterprise reporter Kate Bigam at [email protected].