As employers increasingly look to social networks for information on potential hires, experts warn that it’s more critical than ever for job-seekers to be careful of the self-image they’re showcasing online.
Posting photos to Facebook that show the user drunk or inappropriately dressed, for instance, may seem comical and harmless at the time, but it can hurt the person's chances of getting – or, in some cases, keeping – a job.
Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Reputation.com, said job-seekers must face the reality that their Facebook page can make a first and last impression on potential employers.
"With the rise of social media sites, the Internet has become an unavoidable character reference," Fertik told TechNewsDaily. "What you post online gives potential employers insight into how you will fit into their company environment and into the role."
To ensure that their social networking persona isn’t a liability, Fertik said, job-seekers should be aware of what they’ve posted in the past and have a handle on their list of friends.
Social media expert and career coach Miriam Salpeter said the first step toward tightening up a Facebook image is to enable strict privacy settings so that only those you’ve invited to be a friend are able to see your daily posts and photos.
Facebook allows users to restrict the range of people – just friends, friends of friends, or everyone – able to view various things on their page, including status updates, wall posts, bios, photos, birthdays, political and religious views, and places where they’ve “checked in.”
But privacy settings aren't always enough. A recent Columbia University study found that 94 percent of Facebook users accidentally revealed something to the public that they had intended to keep private.
"Make sure you don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a potential boss to see," Salpeter said. "Set privacy settings, but assume everything you post is public."
Other pieces of advice offered by Salpeter include:
- Delete anything negative, derogatory, offensive, racist, sexist or condescending that you or anyone else has posted toward any group of people on your profile. This includes comments about clients, customers, former or current bosses, interviewers and friends.
- Delete any photo that may be interpreted as unprofessional, or untag yourself in it.
- Unfriend any contacts who don't use good online judgment or may embarrass you.
- Make sure your privacy settings prevent people from checking you into Facebook's "places."
- Quit groups with names that might put off a potential boss, such as I Hate Mondays or Working is for Suckers.
Additionally, Salpeter suggests taking an audit of everything that’s ever led you to click Facebook's “Like” button. Those likes are visible to others – and could reveal unsavory tastes.
For example, "if you are applying for a position managing children, it is not a good idea to highlight your affinity for extremely violent musical groups," she said.
Facebook games – whose updates can be posted in your feed – also can hurt your job search.
"Don't spend time playing Facebook games or taking Facebook quizzes," Salpeter said. "These may give the impression you are not very professional."
Despite the need for the tight privacy settings, social media expert Courtney Rush said Facebook is not something for job-seekers to abandon altogether; it can be a valuable tool.
"You can still use Facebook to learn about organizations and opportunities, promote yourself as a professional and make connections," Rush said. "You don't have to friend anyone to have a professional exchange with them on Facebook."
This story was provided by TechNewsDaily, sister site to BusinessNewsDaily.
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