Clean Up Online? Those Who Do Hiring Are Looking

By Paul R. Huard

May 2, 2008 5 min read

DIGITAL DIRT

Clean up online ? those who do hiring are looking

By Paul R. Huard

Copley News Service

It's a given that a future employer will check your references, speak to former employers about your work habits and examine the details of your work history.

But job seekers should also add "look at your MySpace page" to the list of things that will be used to judge character, background and general job worthiness. It's now just part of life for applicants to acknowledge that MySpace (or any other social networking Web site) is public space, and if what you post can be seen by anyone it can be seen by a potential boss.

What's more, businesses are simply seeing this as another way to get good information that will result in a good hire whether you are a seasoned worker or a first-time employee.

"If you were a commercial banker and someone came in with a well-documented business plan, I suspect that you would also Google them and their business ideas to be sure you were considering giving your bank's money to the same person who was in your office," says Doug Poad, an associate professor and internship coordinator at Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio. "In the 21st century, reference checking will include more and more online research."

One recent survey of young people entering the job market for the first time found that 47 percent of college-graduate job seekers who use social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have either already changed or plan to change the content of their pages as a result of their job search.

"There is a growing trend in the number of employers who are Googling candidates to research for additional information," says Brian Krueger, president of CollegeGrad.com, an online site that specializes in entry level jobs and the sponsor of the survey. "This trend has now spilled over to the use of Internet social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook for screening potential candidates."

That's prompted cries of foul from people young and old who have the sites and believe that an employer using information from a person's page is a violation of privacy.

But, the act of putting it on the Internet is a decision to put yourself in the public eye, says Krueger.

"The thought of an employer reviewing your information can be a very scary thought to a candidate, especially in the case of a college student or recent grad," he says. "But as long as the information is posted publicly, it is available to others and could potentially be a liability to you in your job search. It could keep you from getting the job, or worse yet, from even getting the interview in the first place - and usually you wouldn't even know why."

Social networking sites can even benefit your job search. Like anything you do to present yourself during a job hunt, think about how the page you keep will help or harm a professional appearance.

Career counselors offer the following advice:

- Evaluate your social networking account and postings. How do you feel about your employers seeing what you have posted? How about your parents or grandparents? If Grandma would be shocked by those photos, so might a potential boss.

- Do not post private information, including your cell phone number, home address, class schedule, social plans, etc. unless you are prepared for anyone to find you or track you down, any time of the day or night. Do not post anything that might be embarrassing to you in a potential employment situation.

- Utilize the privacy settings on your Web site account. You can adjust your privacy settings to control who has access to your personal information.

- Google your name to see how your name or identity is being used. Search for your name on sites like WhitePages and SuperPages. If you want to remove your listing, look for relevant links usually toward the bottom of the page.

- Be prepared to answer questions about your social networking page or other social account in job interviews. It has become common for interviewers to ask applicants, "Are you on a social networking site?" and "What is on your profile?" Be prepared to either decline the question or answer honestly because employers will most likely look at your social networking account themselves - if they haven't already.

? Copley News Service

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