Is Your Facebook Status Hurting Your Chances of Landing a Job?

Facebook StatusRecently, an NFL player was fired by a corporate sponsor because of controversial comments he made on Twitter. News like that is pretty common these days. But how often do you hear about the person whose online reputation kept him from getting hired in the first place? It happens more often than you think.

Like it or not, your personal information is visible on the internet, and it can either hurt or help you professionally. There was a time when everybody wanted to segregate their lives and say, "Well, that's just what I do on Facebook." You might think, "Yes, I'm in this 'I Hate Republicans Club' but that's my own life." Think again. The rise of social media has made us all more accessible, and the separation between what is private and public has gotten blurred. All your online actions and interactions can influence your chance of landing your next job.

What Your Online Reputation Tells Recruiters

According to a report on Online Reputation commissioned by Microsoft, 85 percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals surveyed said they check out candidates on the web before they even schedule an interview. The report also found that a positive online reputation often influences hiring decisions.

That's why it's important to ask yourself, "What would employers find out about me on the internet?" You need to be aware that even your interactions can color your reputation. For instance, if you go on my Facebook page, you'll see a bunch of chatter on my Wall from people who I went to high school with. I may not care to hear what they're talking about and may not even be a participant, but it still makes people think, "Wow, he hangs around with a bunch of complainers." Fortunately or unfortunately, your public reputation is connected to who you're friends with, and their activities on social media sites as well.

Also, pictures paint a picture. For a while everyone was focused on their profile photo and what it says about them. But I think it goes beyond that. If you have an online album of photos from a drag race, even if it was the only time you ever went to one, it still colors you as a "NASCAR Guy." And shots of you and the Mrs. dancing in thongs at Hedonism II definitely paint a vivid, if not favorable, picture.

Last year, I was in a car accident -- a 16 year-old kid ran into me head on -- and I spent nine months in the hospital. I was curious about who this kid was, and quickly found him on Myspace. The title of his page was, "Party dude. Get High. Chill." I'm sure his lawyers didn't like that.

One week after the accident, as I was lying in a coma from his egregious act, he was chattering on Facebook about his upcoming vacation and whether there would be hot girls there. So his public persona was: "The Most Insensitive Person Ever."

The point is, whether you realize it or not, your online posts, pictures and friends are going to shape what others think about you and, unfortunately, humans do read into things considerably.

Another mistake I see on social networks is that participants are not joining groups designed to enhance their personal brand. Let's say you're a software programmer. It would impress me as an employer if you were member of a "How to improve software quality" discussion group or the "Serious career path for programmers" group. When I'm checking you out, I would like that much better than seeing on your Facebook page that you're a member of Farmville. I'd wonder, "Are they going to be playing games all day?"

Then I see candidates posting fortune cookies and martinis on their friends' walls and that's not the image I think they should project. They might argue that I'm making Facebook NOT fun, to which I say, "Exactly. Do you want your reputation to be, 'I'm the fun guy?' "

How to Improve Your Professional Persona

Remember that all things that were once private are now public. I talk to candidates who say, "I would only want to show that to my friends. I have my photos blocked so only friends can see," and my next question is, "So after the interview, when the you get a friend request from a Recruiter, what is your answer going to be?"

Facebook has privacy settingsthat let you create different privacy levels for different groups of your friends. Take the time the do this, and group all recruiters and professional contacts in a Friend List with limited access to what's on your page. Then, if you do post potentially controversial content, make sure you only share it with your inner circle.

On LinkedIn, many people do take the time to create the professional image they want to project, but that profile is not a resume. Quite often, people have gaps and embellishments, and only focus on what matters to them. If you speak to an employer and that LinkedIn profile doesn't match up to what your resume says, it's potentially problematic. Make sure your profile is complete and consistent with your resume. And join groups that demonstrate your desired persona. It's okay to be in a "Save the Environment" group." But a monthly discussion group on hating your boss? Not so much.

Also, your friends on Linkedin should demonstrate your career connectedness. If you're an engineer and I'm thinking of hiring you, I want to see that you know other engineers you can help me recruit, or that you have a good advice network of professionals to consult. Cultivate your network so employers will think, "Wow, he knows all the right people in the business."

Lastly, employers like seeing recommendations, but you don't need 40 of them. A small, concise number of impressive LinkedIn recommendations can't hurt you, especially if you are in the job market.

You Never Know When Opportunity Might Come Googling

Research shows that only 18% of people who find a job get hired by online job listings. Much of career advancement is serendipitous: someone you used to work with tells their new boss that you're really good and passes on your contact info.

Even when we're not actively job-hunting, we're always open to more money, less hours and more fun. Always be mindful. If someone you know referred you to an employer and he went on your Facebook page, what would he see? What could he find if he googled you? What preconceived notions are you creating?

Remember, even if you're not looking for a job, someone might be looking for you.

Next: Facebook Suit Highlights Employers' Misunderstanding of Labor Laws

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The Smoking Gun!

BTW folks i have to ask this,.. how is it that anything placed on your facebook page is there FOREVER??? I can;t access much more than a couple of weeks of posts on my face-book wall/profile page. I imagine the sheer volume of content MUST get deleted pretty often.

I WILL add though that this is something very true of most Bulletin boards or forums as they have come to be known now.

That is one place that what you put out there is out there forever! Do not think the anonymity protects you, it does not. but by the same token it doesn't relieve you of your civil rights either, this has been decided by supreme courts that using a moniker on a forum does not mean the real person does not have every civil right they were born with in this country!

Just thought i would add that too!

June 24 2011 at 1:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Once ANYTHING is out there, it's out there forever and ever for anyone to see. Something to think about.

June 21 2011 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Another amazing piece of "journalism" by AOL. If someone posts pictures of a drag race, I doubt anyone would be stupid enough to start calling them "that NASCAR guy". Two totally different sports. AOL is a free service, and worth every penny of it.

June 21 2011 at 7:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

young people do not realize whatever they post on the internet is FOREVER. people need to be more diligent in their security settings and only allow friends to see their posts. even then sometimes so called friends can throw you under a bus so better to err on the side of caution and not post certain personal things

June 21 2011 at 7:03 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

There's a psychopathic dysfunction where people have "fragmented personalities". They are able to disconnect the various parts of ltheir lives, and see no contradictions.
One example I read about was of a woman who despised men for seeing her as only a sex object, yet she saw no contradiction with her job as a Playboy Bunny. I actually know a woman by this description!
The point people need to realize is, Mr Employer doesn't have that dysfunction: he sees you as the same person online and at the office. Demanding to separate one's Facebook from one's work is a sign of a personality disorder.
Here's another angle: Suppose I message a person through a dating website, and she ignores me, twice. There's a good possibility I may someday meet her in the course of my work. How should I handle the fact that she has already treated me rudely? Most people advise me to ignore that and carry on with the job as required, however I beg to differ. If you're rude to me once, shame on you; rude to me twice, shame on me!

June 21 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

anyone who posts a comment on a public site opens themselves to problems. i don't understand y u just don't just check the settings.. this social network and others are what they are and ur just asking for trouble!!

June 21 2011 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Remember that all things that were once private are now public. I talk to candidates who say, "I would only want to show that to my friends. I have my photos blocked so only friends can see," and my next question is, 'So after the interview, when the you get a friend request from a Recruiter, what is your answer going to be?'"

Simple solution: Make yourself unsearchable, and you'll never even have to worry about it. The only problem is Facebook's "People You May Know" feature, which cannot be disabled from either end (likely because Zuckerberg and his cronies just HAVE to test out their new algorithms), but hopefully you don't have many mutual friends with those people anyway.

June 21 2011 at 6:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Legally, an interviewer cannot ask your age, your marital status, whether you have children, your religion, your national origin, your political affiliation, or any number of personal question. That's an issue of law. For prospective employers to be able to look up someone on the internet and make guesses about these things based on a Facebook profile is at least morally wrong and should probably be illegal.

The whole obsession with online presence by employers brings up another problem of the modern work world. Too much is controlled by HR people who don't know or care about the difference between an employee who can do the job and one who cannot. These HR people are selecting the managers now so that we are getting more and more managers who do not know and do not care about the difference between an employee who can do the job and who cannot. Instead, job "qualifications" become more and more about playing HR games. As industry goes further and further in this direction, industry will get less and less accomplished. Eventually, this failure to do the real work that needs to be done will weigh down industry even further and continue to harm our economy.

The problem stems from lawyers. The rise of HR in its current form is an attempt by industry to sanitize everything to the point that companies are completely safe from lawsuits. HR brings that legalistic stupidity into all kinds of areas where people actually need to get things done. The HR interference is hurting the culture and the productivity of US companies.

The solution is drastic tort reform. We need to dry up the business of the lawyers to the point that many law schools close. With this change, companies won't need HR in its current form, and good companies will begin to reduce and remake these departments. The culture will improve, and performance will increase. Companies that hang on to the HR way of doing things will wither. Our choice is this or the further withering of our entire economy and culture.

June 21 2011 at 5:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to gp100ss's comment
The Smoking Gun!

Hear Hear... the most relevant insight in a decade folks, listen to this poster, they have it in a nutshell.
I come from diverse employment fields for which the only relation is maybe they are basically retail sales and sales management but this is everywhere not just "face" jobs.

I have worked for private owned small businesses as well as "big box" retailers, who use "culture" to size people up in how they fit with other people, while those people will undermine your efforts if it will get them advancement while the "good" employee is following the rules, policies and procedures, and getting passed up for every promotion as a result. Why? Read above, the rule follower is a threat, because the rules set forth can be used against the company, specifically those HR processes, the ones that use psychological testing to "assess your potential" to do a job a promotion is the mean time, not one question on these tests assesses how well your skill set fits the job description, especially if you are somewhat intelligent, and SHOW that.

I will promise you won't get the position, why? Because you have proven that you are capable of independent thought.
I have found more and more in my 35 years of working, that companies want mindless drones who will follow what they are told to do blindly, and without question, even though they are quite often asked to do tasks that violate company policy, as do those managing these employees, and then once it suits them, they always have grounds for letting you go, and then denying you UI because you were terminated for "misconduct"... it happens, and this all boils down to one thing....Legal liabilities, or rather, as so comprehensively stated, stupid measures by which companies think they are being protected by.

Are some measures needed? Of course, there are still many people in this country who have bias, prejudice, which is no longer just a racial thing, there are sexual harassers who get away with it over and over, but yet another person may be making a simple statement that was overheard and taken out of context, and the next thing they know they are suspended without pay pending an investigation, these inctances have swung this pendulum way too far in the wrong direction, where we went from abusive, obnoxious male bosses who verbally abuse their female employees in to being subservient workers or they will be put in a position to either make up for something completely fictitious, by"doing a favor" to just HR causing the very mention of this by a female worker, and some poor schlep who did nothing but be taken out of context, by someone who not a part of the conversation and then are coerced in to either signing an agreement with the terms set forth by HR, or be told they will remain suspended while the investigation ensues,if they dispute the claims by the employee, only then do they reveal the reasons.
All these and more, are just HR Frankensteins, created by companies avoiding liabilities.

June 24 2011 at 1:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

what damn busines is it of a employer if a person likes to have fun fish go on vacation what the hell does it have to do with their job and what kind of work they do a person does have a personal life and what they do off the clock is nobodys busines but their own THIS IS NOT CHINA OR IRAQ OR RUSSIA OR THE UNITED STATES OR SOME MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRY WHERE A BUNCH OF RELIGIOUS FANATICS DICTATATE HOW YOU SHOULD LIVE OR TELL YOU WHAT TO DO

June 21 2011 at 5:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I would rather employers not look because people are entitled to their own lves. What they do outside the office is none of thier business because they are not on the clock.

June 21 2011 at 5:07 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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