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March 31, 2009


The era of the social networking web site is clearly upon us. An entire generation of people doesn't seem to think twice about sharing personal information and photos with the plugged-in planet. When it comes to employment, though, your willingness to share may cost you.

According to's Social Networking Web Sites Survey, 44% of employers use sites like MySpace and Facebook to check out job candidates, and 39% have looked up the profile of a current employee. Profiles that reveal questionable behavior or attitudes can be harmful to job seekers, as 82% of employers say that something they perceive as negative on a profile would affect their hiring decisions. Despite these revealing statistics, only 57% of people with profiles take security measures, such as using the web site's privacy controls or editing their profiles while in the midst of a job search.

As long as it's more important to you to land that dream job than to provide the world with photographic evidence of your win in last year's beer pong championship, remember these words: "This profile is set to private." If you're actively searching for a job, or if your resume is posted on an employment web site, be sure to utilize the privacy controls of any social networking sites you use. Here's why:

The First Impression
Do you really want your online profile to make an impression before you can? It's becoming more and more common for hiring managers to use social networking web sites as a tool to whittle down the resume pile. If an HR exec logs on only to find coarse language and salacious shots, well, there's a good bet your resume will end up in the reject pile. Yes, it's fun to share borderline-scandalous profile content with friends, but why a potential employer? If it's NSFW, then it's NSF your non-private profile.

Personal Preferences
Revealing your affiliations and likes/dislikes can leave you open to someone else's biases. From your political party to even seemingly harmless information like your favorite movies or the last book you've read, these stated preferences could mean the difference between you and someone else getting the job. Isn't it safer to just keep this information private? You may feel that you wouldn't want to work for a company where someone would judge you based on such things, but in a close race, it may be easier for a hiring manager to align with a fellow oboe enthusiast than a candidate with whom he or she has no common interests. Get the job first; then reveal your love of Celine Dion.

Postings from Friends
Social networking site profiles are all about "friends." How many do you have? Who knows who? And what is everyone doing at every possible moment? Ask yourself, "Is it safe to let potential employers see what my friends are posting to my profile?" In high school, people judged you by who you hung out with; sad as it is, the same goes for social networking web sites.

Picture and Screen Name
So you've taken this all to heart, and you're about to set your profile to private...great job! But don't neglect your photo and screen name. Resist the urge to choose a too-cutesy name and/or an excessively silly or revealing picture to represent yourself to the world at large. No matter how tempting it may be to call yourself Divalicious08, it doesn't exactly give off an aura of professionalism.


Filed Under: Job Search