March 26, 2013

Social Networks: Why it Matters to “Pause” Before you Post

Questioning man holding white blank speech bubbleA friend of a friend desires to go to medical school. She graduated from college last year and is currently studying to take the MCAT and apply for medical school programs. If you heard her talk you would pretty much conclude that she is passionate about medicine and very determined to become successful. Yet, I came across her Facebook profile one day and, in my Carrie Bradshaw voice, I couldn’t help but wonder: Does her online presence reflect the same?

Before becoming immersed in the recruitment and HR field, this thought wouldn’t have immediately popped into my mind after seeing someone’s Facebook profile; but now I cannot help it. Once you understand just how important social media and your online reputation (whether good or bad) can be to your future success you simply cannot help but notice that there are still millions of people who are ignorant to this fact.

Case in point, my friend of a friend. Her Facebook profile is filled with pictures of her 1) dressed provocatively 2) holding liquor bottles and/or cups up during a party (with the cups assumed to contain alcohol) and 3) photos of her and friends in bikinis.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We’ve all gone to a party or to the beach and had photos taken. Employers are human and they understand this. Yet, I think the issue comes when the quantity of these types of photos exceeds the “on-occasion” instances.

So in my friend’s case, although she is intelligent and determined to enter medical school, it’s unlikely a potential hospital or administration committee at a school would think the same after viewing her profile. Image is everything, even if it’s not the one you’d hoped to portray.

Potential employers are scanning Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms you’ve created accounts with when reviewing an applicant. Here’s what you need to know about the role your social networking presence may be playing in whether or not you get hired; information to hopefully help you pause and think about any negative effects before posting:

Facebook is a part of today’s standard background check. As you may already know, many companies today conduct background checks on potential employees in order to evaluate whether or not they’re appropriate choices for hire. What you may not be aware of is that perusal of your Facebook and other social networking profiles is a part of standard background checks these days.

Sites like Facebook are an excellent way to find out about the “real you” and not just the professional “best-face-forward” you that shows up to the job interview or sends in the resume that sparked interest in the first place. Make sure that yours is sending the message you want potential employers to get.

Employers are looking to match the face and personality with the resume. After learning your profile will be scanned in the sourcing process, your first instinct may be to panic and delete all your photos – if not your entire Facebook – but you might want to understand exactly what those conducting your background check are actually looking for before jumping the gun. Really, they’re looking for a sense of who you are outside of your professional persona. A lot can be determined in this regard by checking out what organizations you belong to, as well as what you discuss with your friends.

Employers don’t necessarily care what your hobbies are or how you like to spend your free time. However, they do care about whether or not you’re involved in any illegal activity, whether you appear to be racist or sexist, and whether or not you’re in the habit of posting questionable content (such as sexually explicit material). Any of those things is likely to negatively affect your chances of getting hired.

You must be the gatekeeper for what you post publicly. This should be something you do anyway, but if you haven’t already given some thought to adjusting your privacy settings on Facebook, now might be a good time to do so. If you don’t want others checking out your social networking profiles, be sure to lock them down, at least partially. Also, just start being more careful of what you post. After all, your social media presence plays a major role in how you present yourself publicly. Your online profiles should be representative of the best possible version of you.

Read more in Social Media Resume

Marks’ stories have also been published in a variety of newspaper, magazine and online formats including The Arizona Republic, The Daily Herald, Arizona Foothills Magazine and various classroom magazines of Scholastic Inc. Service is her passion, writing is her platform and uplifting and inspiring the community is her purpose. Marks received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University.
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