Last Updated: March 10, 2012 6

Online Social Networking: What Individuals Need to Consider When Applying for a Job

Found In: Employment › Social Networks

If you maintain a blog or are active on a social networking site, then one of your readers might just be your potential boss. And if that person finds something that he or she finds offensive on your site, then the job offer you thought was in the bag could be hastily withdrawn leaving you left to continue your search for your dream position.

As much fun as maintaining a blog or social networking site can be, if you’re looking for a job then you should remember that these sites leave a digital trail. And while you may be maintaining your Myspace page for the benefit of your friends and family, it can just as easily be accessed by employers wanting to know more about you before calling you in for interview, a practice that a growing number of companies are now doing. Social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook are nowadays one of the most commonly used tools that employers wanting to gain an insight into a potential employee’s character use. While individuals using these websites see them as vehicles for sharing information among friends and family, companies looking to recruit are using them for somewhat different purposes. For example, an employer Googling a candidate’s name may, from a social networking site on which the candidate is registered, find out about his or her family background, sexual preference, age, ethnicity, and political persuasion.

From a recruiting perspective these social networking sites serve as a very useful tool, because there are a number of questions that an employer is not legally permitted to ask, such as a candidate’s sexual orientation and political persuasion. A quick look on a potential employee’s Myspace page could very well answer these questions – unequivocally.

Although the owners of social networking sites do not endorse their use for recruitment-related background checks, it’s a practice that seems to be on the rise, regardless of whether it’s ethical for employers to do so. So how concerned should someone who is open and candid in his or her Facebook profile be if they’ve recently applied for their dream job? That probably depends on just how open and candid that person has been online, and whether they believe their online social networking activities will be detrimental to any job application. But how do you know? While it’s fairly easy to determine which pieces of information are going to have a negative effect when it comes to a job application – having had to leave your last job as a result of bad time-keeping, for example – others aren’t so easy to spot. You need to think about the particular company (or companies) to which you’ve applied for a position and then consider if there’s anything on your page that will compromise you. For example, if you’ve endorsed the principles of a particular company in order to secure an interview, yet your activities as conveyed on your Facebook page give the impression that you hold an opposing viewpoint, then this won’t stand in your favor should that company’s recruiting manager get to see it.

Also, think about how you’d like to be perceived by a potential employer. If there are a number of photos on your Facebook page showing you drunk and in comprising positions, and which a recruiting manager finds offensive, it will be difficult for him or her not to have the tiniest degree of prejudice when they come to interview you.

Remember that the majority of information published online is public, and that at the moment there’s nothing to stop employers from using the Internet to check out candidates, and even reject job applications on the basis of what they find: (a closely related issue, which is bound to attract a lot of attention as we move forward in the technological age, is whether an employer can use something it finds online about an employee to fire him or her). And while the Internet grants a degree of anonymity, perhaps the most sensible approach in this situation is not to post anything on a blog or social networking site (e.g. views, information) that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with others – including a potential employer – in the real world.