Digital first impressions: How social networking sites can affect your job hunt

With social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it has become easier to know so much about someone you’ve never even met. Sure, you can keep tabs on an old friend from high school or see pictures of that guy your roommate has a crush on, but it is important to remember that people are most likely “Facebook stalking” you as well- and employers aren’t necessarily above that expectation.

“I think it’s something that people don’t always think about, but probably should,” said Jason Clark, a sophomore in Business. “Even when you’re just trying to get an internship, people could be looking at your Facebook to see what kind of person you really are.”

Although it is hard to tell which specific companies do or do not screen potential applicants through social networking sites, the process does exist, said Katie Flint, assistant director of The Career Center on campus.

In fact, CareerBuilder.com recently found that of 2,600 hiring managers surveyed, 45 percent utilized social networking sites to screen applicants.

However widespread this digital screening process actually is, Flint said it could be hard to know how thoroughly companies look at each applicant’s profile.

“Although, if you have something on the front page that might raise an eyebrow, they might decide to dig further, so that is something to be conscientious of too,” she added.

While many students are dedicated to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, more professional alternatives are also available and can be shown to potential employers.

“The thing to keep in mind is there are other venues that allow for a purely professional profile to be put out there, such as LinkedIn,” Flint said.

“It’s specifically created to be like an online resume, a way to network and get yourself in front of recruiters in a professional positive way as opposed to Facebook which is meant more for the social interaction.”

Flint said that the biggest pitfall for students when it came to social networking sites were pictures.

“One of the great tools about Facebook is being able to share pictures with people and grab pictures from people, but that tends to be where you see some things getting posted that you don’t really want out there,” Flint said.

“The thing to keep in mind is with cell phone cameras these days, people could be snapping pictures of you that you’re not even aware of that are getting put up on Facebook, and then you get tagged.”

CareerBuilder.com’s survey agreed, finding that of the candidates who were disregarded after their sites and profiles had been screened, 53 percent were due to the fact that the “candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information.”

Status updates also have the potential to become a problem, Flint said, warning against obvious things like complaining about previous or current employers.

Although it most likely isn’t possible to find out if a specific company is scrutinizing your online history, it is perhaps best to consider whether the picture of you playing beerpong or that crazy night at Joe’s is worth the possible consequences of employer judgment.

“We tell students just to keep in mind that the possibility is there, so whether they do [look at your profile] or not, why risk that?” Flint said. “Why risk having something seemingly innocent that you post on there keep you from getting a job?”