Facebook: The New Cover Letter

Facebook: The New Cover Letter

Chris Nickels

A recent survey done on behalf of CareerBuilder.com found that 26 percent of hiring managers use Internet search engines to check the backgrounds of potential employees and 12 percent use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace for their research.

The results of the study might have college students rethinking the advisability of posting personal information online.

The information employers find on these sites can negatively affect job prospects for students with lewd or inappropriate profiles.

The survey found that employers often reject potential employees because of the information they find, citing provocative photographs, evidence of criminal behavior and drinking or drug use all as reasons for dismissal.

For example, 63 percent of hiring managers who used social networking sites for research did not hire the person based on their findings.

The Center for Career Services has been aware of the issue for some time and continues to inform students about the potential hazards of posting overly-revealing or inappropriate information on Facebook and MySpace pages.

“We’ve been speaking to students about it,” Associate Director of Career Services Barbara Roback said. “We’ve certainly been getting more and more feedback from employers about them looking at Facebook and it being a part of their review of students.”

The question becomes what information is appropriate to put online.

“We recommend that they take an employer’s perspective – what information would you share, say, with a parent?” Roback said.

Treasurer of the Konosioni Honor Society and former member of the Student Government Association’s Executive Board Senior Matt Kroll had another suggestion.

“Facebok comes with a huge array of privacy options. It’s really up to you to be smart and utilize those options,” he said. “Your definition of what is appropriate may vary greatly from others’, which is essentially what needs to be considered.”

Many students are not aware that employers would use what is seemingly harmless information to do employment research.

“We’ve had a little bit of pushback from students who didn’t believe that was true. It is something we have seen students not being at all aware of,” Roback said.

The information that goes onto the Internet is nevertheless public domain, and astute employers utilize it to assess candidates outside of personal interviews and r?esum?es.

“It’s part of [employers’] due diligence. An employer’s job is really to manage the risk in hiring you or anyone, so they’re going to find out as much as they can,” Assistant Director of Career Services Chip Schroder said. “They all need to go and do their research. They really do their homework.”

Of course, the information students place on the Internet can increase their chances of employment as much as it can hurt them. The CareerBuilders.com survey noted that hiring managers were able to confirm hires by examining information based on personality, interests and qualifications.

“It could work to someone’s advantage, especially if you do have a cleaned-up Facebook profile that’s appropriate,” said Kroll. “It could reflect on your personality, and employers could like that.”

Although Roback does not think that every student should rush out and create a MySpace page, she agrees that there are some potential advantages to having such a profile.

“With a thoughtful site, I do think that it can show more of the person than you get in a quick interview. There are some benefits to putting information out there, and you can make it work for you,” she said.

CareerBuilders.com is the largest online employment website in the United States. Over 250,000 employers post job positions on the site, and it contains over 18 million resumes. The survey was completed in September 2006.