I check my Facebook about once every few days, but I have a feeling that most of my friends check it way more frequently. I use the site to keep in touch with friends from high school and college, send and receive reminders concerning important upcoming campus events, and update loved ones about changes in my life. However, I know people that use their Facebook page practically as a replacement cell-phone: making plans, flirting, and chatting instantly with friends. What I didn’t know, though, was that Facebook is a social media tool that students are using to advertise themselves to employers.
In the past years as I have been applying for internships, I have been given the same advice from friends, teachers, and parents: “Do not let your employers see your Facebook.” It stands to reason, then, that a Facebook page could be potentially a harmful tool in the application process. All of those pictures from Winter Formals and those comments about Jersey Shore might make a company think twice before they hire you. So why, then is Career Services providing tips on how to use social media in your job search?

In many organizations, the reality is that the HR representative or hiring manager will use Facebook as a way to increase their understanding of and informational access to applicants. A statistic quoted in Career Services’ Career Planning Guide says that according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers over 70% of employers check out candidates using social media tools. More and more companies have begun to post job offerings on Facebook. They are looking for media-savvy prospective employees who have a firm grasp on social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, who can help the company reach a wider base. Discovering a job on Facebook may be an advantage, as it demonstrates an applicant’s grasp of social media, as well as his/her understanding of the importance of networking and initiative. You can also find out about and sign up for events hosted by the company on Facebook. Organizations constantly scan their postings on information sessions or campus visits to see which students have chosen to RSVP and attend.

Facebook can also be used to make an applicant stand out. If a profile appears clean and professional, while still having personality, it may be the deciding factor in a tie between a few applicants. Employers look for things like what you are a “fan of” and what your “interests” are. You can make yourself appear very serious about the job by becoming a fan of the company and putting professional pursuits in your “personal information” section. By limiting photographs, graphics, widgets, etc. and posting content relevant to your job search, you will appear more career-minded and business savvy.

Finally, for those who have not had much experience in the job market, Facebook may be an easier way than tools such as LinkedIn, to begin the process of social networking. While LinkedIn is a professional networking site, it may be intimidating for students without work experience to begin to network with individuals who have been in the field for several years. (For helpful information about how to get started using LinkedIn click here.) Facebook allows students to foster relationships with friends and alumni in a low-pressure setting, while still being able to present a business-professional front. However, it is important to remember that if you begin conversations with professionals via Facebook, you must be aware of the other Friends you are connected to on the website. Choosing Facebook friends wisely is essential to Facebook networking because a new friend can see information about all your other friends in your profile. In essence, your current friends on Facebook reflect back on you to future employers.

Facebook can be a great way to market yourself to employers during the job search. Once you make the decision to use the website as a professional networking tool, you must remember to: 1) clean up your profile including content and friends; 2) limit photographs and extra widgets on your profile; 3) post content relevant to your career search; 4) use Facebook to build relationships with friends and working alumni. If you do all these things, Facebook could be the tool that sets you apart from other applicants in a tight pool.

For individualized information about how to tweak your Facebook Profile and use other forms of social media, visit Career Services. You can make an appointment by calling (609) 258-3325 or drop by during walk-in hours every weekday from 3-5 PM to speak with a career counselor.