Students using Facebook must be careful

There has been some concern over the last few years about whether Facebook has been used as a secondary source of information for employers to look at when considering hiring possible employees.

New research from the Department of Psychology at North Carolina State University said that 57 percent of college students think their Facebook statuses, comments and pictures are all appropriate, while 69 percent of job recruiters report finding components they do not want to see in someone they hire, such as evidence of drinking, drugs, bad-mouthing previous employers or lying on their resumes, among others.

“These days, your ‘online reputation’ and your ‘everyday reputation’ are one and the same,” said Mallory Bower, associate director of career services at Oswego State. “Last week, we asked a recruiter from Mutual of Omaha if he searches candidates’ profiles on Facebook and he said, ‘Yes, 100 percent of the time.’”

According to data from CareerBuilder, 41 percent of hiring managers say they were turned off after seeing references to drugs and alcohol, 40 percent by inappropriate images and 29 percent by poor communication skills.

“Employers want to see that you’ll be able to represent their company in a positive way,” Bower said. “And if you have a photo album named ‘Mug Night,’ it may not show you in the best light.”

Freshman Serena Whitaker said that Facebook and other social media are treated as public places and that anything someone posts is justified to be seen by others.

“If someone puts their personal information on the web and doesn’t get the job they want because of it, it totally falls back on them for not being discrete with what they put on the Internet,” Whitaker said. “Personally, I don’t really care if a future employer looked at my profile. I don’t think I put anything on the Internet that threatens the chance of me getting a job.”

Chelsea Hamlet, a public relations intern at career services, said that even some college admissions offices are looking at high school student profiles to help determine whether they should be accepted or not.

“As far as college students, it’s important for them to research companies they would like to work for because some places have polices that prohibit using social media as a means of whether or not to hire someone,” Hamlet said. “However, with any polices, people can always find a way around them. Therefore, it is better to have a ‘clean’ or positive social media presence so that employers won’t be able to use that as an excuse to not hire you.”

There have been some legislative maneuvers across the country, advocating Facebook should be viewed as “home life” and that employers should not have the right to demand social media passwords. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, legislation preventing employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts to get or keep a job was introduced or was pending in at least 36 states as of Sept. 12. The states of Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington have enacted legislation since then.

Junior, Desirae Collins, said that she only sometimes thinks about certain statuses or comments before posting them on her Facebook.

“Mostly it’s out of pure emotion of the moment,” Collins said. “Whether it’s hate or love. Someone only really posts anything to get attention. That’s really all it is.”

Programs at The Compass at Oswego State help prevent students from falling into this career trap. Hamlet is currently the specialist for “Digital Dirt,” a campaign that the Compass started this academic year to bring awareness to faculty, staff and students about the importance of having a positive social media presence.

“When I do a digital dirt consultation, I look at students’ Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles,” Hamlet said. “I give them suggestions on how to improve their social media presence using the social networks. I also Google their name to see what information comes up about them. It only takes about 10-15 minutes.”

Bower advised students to be proactive instead of reactive with their postings, that privacy settings are a myth and what someone posts is permanent.

If you wouldn’t want your grandma or an employer to see it, don’t share it on social media,” Hamlet said.

“Honestly, I don’t really think much about the pictures, statuses, or comments I post or how they could affect me in the future,” Whitaker said. “But I think I should start thinking about it because maybe someday I’ll say something stupid on Facebook in the future and it could risk me getting a job.”

Bower said students should remember social media can be just as helpful as it is hurtful in the job field, as they can help students create networks with alumni and employers in their future fields.

“Use sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, about.me, and other blogging sites to showcase your professional abilities,” Bower said. “If used correctly, it can open doors to new opportunities.”

Hamlet recommended that students use social media to talk about the things that they are doing in school, post some content that reflects what they would like to do in their future career, anything they find interesting that is appropriate and also to remember that every employer is different.

“Some might check candidates’ social media, others might not,” Hamlet said. “Either way it’s better to be safe than sorry.”