A “Best of the Web” issue would be remiss without including the social phenom networking sites that are MySpace and Facebook. Many employers have caught on to the popularity of these sites and are now logging on to check much more than checking status updates.
Big Brother Syndrome
According to this NYTimes.com article, Facebook and MySpace are only two years old but have attracted millions of avid young participants, who mingle online by sharing biographical and other information, often intended to show how funny, cool or outrageous they are.
The article goes on to say that on MySpace and similar sites, personal pages are generally available to anyone who registers, with few restrictions on who can register. Facebook, though, has separate requirements for different categories of users; college students must have a college e-mail address to register. Personal pages on Facebook are restricted to friends and others on the user’s campus, leading many students to assume that they are relatively private.
According to a survey of 102 executive recruiters by ExecuNet — an executive job search and networking organization — 75 percent of recruiters use search engines to uncover information about candidates, especially college students and new grads, and after their findings, 26 percent of applicants have been eliminated because of information recruiters discovered about them online, via their Myspace and/or Facebook profiles.
So, which companies are more than likely to snoop around for your online profiles? Well, there’s no guarantee that the employer that you’ve applied to, wouldn’t do a search just because you don’t think it will, so the rule of thumb is to play it safe and assume the worst. But in general, the chances are greater if the company is a tech-savvy company or involved in the digital world.
Tread Lightly, Young Grasshopper
So what’s a hip-social-butterfly as yourself supposed to do? Well, here are some pointers — which apply to any social networking site — to help you keep both your professional and social lives separate, but thriving.
Have a Professional and a Personal Profile
Dave Ebbesmeyer, 32, director of sales at Montgomery Rd.-based AI Software, says he joined Facebook a few months ago for professional networking. Ebbesmeyer says he has already gained several new clients and has been well worth the time he invests in maintaining it.
Online social networking sites can be effective professional networking tools. They are also fun places to keep in contact with friends using public messages, photos and events. Things you say to friends aren’t necessarily things you want future employers to see. So, have your cake and eat it too by having two profiles, and follow these helpful pointers:
A Professional/Public Profile
- Shows your full name, job history and schooling.
- Only add work-related email accounts/IM.
- Only add industry contacts as friends.
- Only join networks related to school and work.
- Only have one professional looking photo or do not include a photo.
- If “blasts from the past” try to find you this is where they’ll end up and you can add them as a contact without revealing lots of personal information to them.
A Personal/Private Profile (Shows first name/nickname, and last initial.)
- Don’t join networks related to school or work.
- Don’t list your work experience.
- Don’t use your work email address.
- Do whatever you want with it.
Obviously, don’t link your personal and professional accounts. Since you have two online social networking sites accounts that are unrelated to each other you can switch accounts to test how much information is publicly available on the other account.
Changing the Default Privacy Settings
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t set their profiles and accounts to either “private” or “friends only.” By changing your account’s default settings – which usually are set so that everyone or the “public” can see your account — from “public” to either “private” or “friends only,” you can rest assured that the people you don’t want viewing your profile — including employers — won’t.
So, the next time you think it’s a good idea to post that risque picture of you or leave a potty-mouthed comment, just be careful and think twice before you post, because it could cause a future employer to give you a new status: Rejected.