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Dude, Seriously, Facebook Could Cost You a Job

Dude, Seriously, Facebook Could Cost You a Job

Rock Hill Herald

It could become the next great piece of parental advice, following “don’t run with scissors” and “eat your vegetables.”

Watch what you post online because it could cost you a job.

Dismiss if you like, but there’s evidence to suggest that this is not just good advice but critical advice.

A recent survey of companies by found that 45 percent of respondents said they screen potential job candidates by perusing their profiles on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter in search of warning signs that a candidate might not be a good fit.

That 45 percent is more than double the previous year. And yes, the trend has made its way into York County.

“It’s such a new area, but there is a lot of conversation,” said Russ Knight, president of the York County chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.

Most companies don’t have formal policies about using social media as a means to vet job seekers, Knight said. But, as Knight tells college students about to hit the job market, that doesn’t mean your profile won’t work against you.

“I caution those folks to be careful what you put on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace for that very reason,” Knight said.

From a business standpoint, looking up job candidates’ online profiles is just a smart thing to do, Knight said. After all, companies do criminal background checks, so a social background check makes sense.

Of those companies that conduct online vetting of job candidates, the CareerBuilder survey found, 29 percent use Facebook, 26 percent use LinkedIn and 21 percent use MySpace. Eleven percent search blogs while 7 percent scour Twitter, the survey found.

But here’s the real deal: 35 percent of employers reported they found information on a candidate’s online profile that caused them not to hire that person.

Among the most common reasons cited to CareerBuilder:

- Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information (53 percent)

- Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs (44 percent)

- Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients (35 percent)

- Candidate showed poor communication skills (29 percent)

- Candidate made discriminatory comments (26 percent)

- Candidate lied about qualifications (24 percent)

- Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer (20 percent)

“If I’m hiring someone with two or three years’ experience, and I Google them and see them doing a keg stand two or three weeks ago, that’s going to be a turn-off,” said Kevin Nichols, vice president of Stark & Associates, a Fort Mill Internet marketing company.

Nichols’ company makes it a point to search the social media sites for information on job candidates, though there is not a formal policy.

Nichols recommends job seekers apply a common but useful rule when posting information about themselves online: “Don’t post something or e-mail something that you wouldn’t want your mother to read.”

But, Nichols said, companies need to consider the age and life circumstances of a candidate when searching for them online.

For example, a college senior who has a photo on Facebook showing him holding a beer at a football game is probably safe. But a 30- year-old whose profile includes photos of him passed out drunk probably shouldn’t expect to get hired.

There is an upside to having social media profiles if you’re looking for work. The CareerBuilder survey found that your online profile can be a reason that a company decides to bring you on board.

Among those reasons:

- A candidate’s profile gave a good feel for their personality and fit

- The profile supported candidate’s professional qualifications

- The candidate was creative

- Other people posted good references about the candidate

- The candidate received awards and accolades

“Social networking is a great way to make connections with potential job opportunities and promote your personal brand across the Internet,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Make sure you are using this resource to your advantage by conveying a professional image and underscoring your qualifications.”

Haefner offers some do’s and don’ts.

- DO clean up “digital dirt” before you begin your job search. Remove any photos, content and links that can work against you in an employer’s eyes.

- DO consider setting up your own professional group on sites like Facebook or to establish relationships with “thought leaders, recruiters and potential referrals.”

- DO keep gripes offline. Stay focused on the positive, whether that relates to professional or personal information. Highlight specific accomplishments inside and outside of work.

- DON’T forget others can see your friends, so be careful about who you accept. Monitor comments made by others. Consider using the “block comments” feature or setting your profile to “private” so only designated friends can view it.

- DON’T mention your job search if you’re still employed.

The lesson here? Help social media help you. Don’t cost yourself a job because you don’t think people notice your online personality. In this job market, especially, look for every advantage you can get.

Because that’s exactly what employers are doing.

“Here’s another place we can gather information,” Knight said. “If I’m going to a hire a school teacher and I can find her on Facebook, why not look her up?”

Herald Business Editor Jason Foster’s “Biz Buzz” column runs every Sunday. Contact him at 803-329-4066 or You can follow his business coverage at or on his blog at bizbuzz.

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