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Clean up Facebook before graduation
Spring is in the air, and graduating seniors are fighting off senioritis as they prepare to take their final exams. Many of these students are in the process of looking for summer jobs or their first full-time jobs. With a tough job market, students need to use every resource available to market themselves to potential employers, including social media, such as Facebook.
Students are often under the erroneous assumption that everything they post to Facebook is just between them and the friends they choose to allow on their Facebook. Or, even worse, they are unprepared to deal with interviewers asking for their Facebook usernames and passwords.
It is rare for employers to ask for your Facebook username and password. However, if they do, you are under no obligation to supply it. Under no circumstances should you give them your account password. There is some gray area in this matter, and the Department of Justice has been asked to provide a legal opinion on whether or not employers can ask for this information. The debate centers on whether or not information posted to your Facebook falls into the same category as a legitimate background search.
Employers may use social media sites and even Internet search engines, such as Google, to research a potential employee. Theoretically, they are not allowed to use the information to discriminate against applicants based on their age, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. Companies have different nondiscrimination statements, but these are the broad areas covered.
For example, if a potential employer looked at an applicant’s Facebook page and saw activity in support groups for physical or mental health issues, the employer should not use this information in the hiring decision. However, a research study conducted by Microsoft found that nearly 70 percent of hiring managers had ruled out potential job applicants based on what they discovered about the applicant online.
An employer can also use information from Facebook and Internet searches to weed out general stupidity. For example, a graduating college student applied for his first professional job. There were many qualified applicants, so the employer searched the Internet to see what information was available on the candidates.
The employer found part of the applicant’s Facebook page on Google. Remember, everything posted on the Internet is archived somewhere, forever. On the Facebook page, this applicant listed some things he wanted to do before he graduated. As a joke, he listed jumping naked off the Tombigbee Bridge and getting paid for prostitution.
Unfortunately for this student, his account had been hacked. The hackers posted a copy of his Facebook page to the web without the student’s knowledge. Therein lies the danger of social media. You should always have your account set to private, but a hacked private account can be made public.
Also, you should prevent others from tagging you in photos and videos. Log into Facebook and left-click Home/Privacy Settings. Scroll down until you see Profile and Tagging and left-click Edit Settings. Change the privacy settings to match your needs. If someone has tagged you in a photo, simply left-click the photo and then left-click remove.
Creating a Google Alert will notify you whenever information about you is posted to the Internet. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts and type in the required information. Google will send you an email with links to the search terms you entered.
Further, when job-hunting, you need to make sure that your profile picture is employer-friendly. One student posted a profile picture of himself with assault rifles. While the right to bear arms is a constitutional amendment, it may not be the image you wish to project when applying for a job at a day-care center or school.
Many employers are beginning to implement social media clauses in their contracts, which can impact what information you can reveal and whom you can add as a friend. For example, most teachers are forbidden from having contact with students or parents on Facebook, and many research scientists are prohibited from posting any updates on grants they are working on.
Social media is an excellent tool you can use to market yourself to future employers. However, just like your résumé, take time this spring to spruce up your online image.