The information age changes at such a rapid pace. No wonder our parents and grandparents glaze over when we say things like “She just tweeted me” or “I just blogged about that” or “I’m gonna send an e-blast to all my friends” or “I can’t get this wallpaper downloaded!”
To them, tweeting is a sound a parakeet makes. Wallpaper is something you hang, angrily, with a family member. A blog might be something you clear from your drain. And an e-blast … whatever that is, it doesn’t sound pleasant.
Remember when you got your cell phone? Remember when you finally gave in to texting? Do you recall when Barbara Walters first mentioned the Web sensation “MyFace”? The first time you heard the term “adding glitter”? Facebook updates? Twitter?
For many, it’s fun to put their every thought, their every move out there for the world to see. Everyone’s diary is now shared with the world. But, be careful! Your future employers are looking you up online. “I have had friends and fellow employers who have indeed looked up a person’s personal online MySpace and/or Facebook page,” says Caleb Applegate, a businessman working in investments. “In one case I can tell you they were not hired because of what the employer found. I think it is an appropriate way to see the character of a person. A simple interview tells you what you want to hear. A Facebook/MySpace page tells you a thousand different things about the person.”
Some employers are hesitant to check those sites, fearing they might find private information like religious views or sexual orientation that could lead to discrimination lawsuits. Sometimes, though, they receive the strangest applications from young job searchers. “I did recently receive a LinkedIn request from someone wearing a Halloween mask. A little creepy, considering this person is looking for work on a professional site!” says Richard Archambault, an employer in television and film post-production.
Of course, presenting yourself in a positive light on your social networking site can have its advantages. “I always check out prospective employees,” says Tony Hightower, a tax specialist. “In one instance it was a determining factor because it seemed one of the applicants had a lot of friends in our target demographic … I thought she would be able to network better than the other applicants, so we hired her. It worked out, she did bring in a lot of referrals.”
In this case, having a positive social networking presence got the young woman a job. An employer saw that she had a lot of connections that would really boost his business. She wisely left “party pics” off the site and gave off a mature, professional vibe.
Your public networking is just that—public. Remember what your parents taught you: “Mean what you say and say what you mean.” That classic rule still applies online.
While “inappropriate drunk photos” is the number one problem employers find when they look at a person’s social networking page, 22 percent say it’s the “rude comments” left online that kill an employee’s chance of getting hired. “Inside jokes” also don’t play well to the outside world. When applying to colleges or looking for work, consider blocking status updates and putting a control block on public comments others can leave about you.
By the Numbers
- 27 percent of employers check job candidates’ online profiles, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
- 24 percent of those said they’d been put off by something they found.
- According to the Knowledge Network, “Of the people who had not searched for applicants online to-date, 44 percent admitted that they ‘probably would do this in the future.’”
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2009/10 issue of Collegiate magazine.