It was a straightforward question from a young reporter who I have been mentoring, "Is there anything on my Facebook page that would hurt my chances of getting my next job?"
And, unfortunately, the answer I gave her was "yes". Pictures of partying and provocative poses, which may be fun and seemingly innocent, can leave a potential employer wondering about you as a responsible employee.
While you may have heard it over and over again about the potential for your social network profile harming your chances of getting a job, a new survey out confirms that employers are turning to the Internet to screen applicants.
The survey, by CareerBuilder in Great Britain, showed that more than half of companies are now checking out applicants' social network sites. Forty percent of those companies say they have dropped job candidates based on what they found. And more and more companies say they plan to include social network checks when screening job applicants. Among the things that killed a chance of getting a job:
1. Lies about qualifications
2. Making discriminatory comments
3. Saying bad things about a previous employer
4. Provocative or inappropriate photos
While this is food for thought for everyone, it's especially relevant for younger people and college students who are looking for work in this tough economy. Keep in mind that many hiring managers and HR people are older and more conservative than you. What you may think is acceptable fun may not look that way in the eyes of the person who will ultimately decide whether or not to hire you. And, it's not only wild pictures that can get you in trouble. Several companies in the survey said they were able to figure out lies on résumé based on what people posted on their social sites.
A couple of real life stories from my days as a News Director. At one station where I worked, my boss required me to "Google all job candidates." I was required to report back what found. As I was checking out a very capable reporter candidate, I found some videos of her online giving dating and sex advice on a somewhat racy site geared towards college students. It didn't bother me, but once my boss saw it, she was no longer a candidate for the job.
In another case, some people who worked for me lost their jobs because of their MySpace pages. Someone had let the owner of a TV station I worked at know that two employees had posted extremely derogatory remarks about the station on their MySpace pages. Once the owner say the posts, the two employees were toast.
You may think you can keep a lot of your online life private, but don't count on it. I'm not saying you shouldn't use places like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn to socialize and connect with you friends. I certainly do. But, you need to balance that with keeping your online persona respectable for potential employers. An employer will never tell you that your online presence was the reason you didn't get the job, but, as the CareerBuilder survey showed, it certainly can be the reason.