Facebook. Twitter. Jobs. Which one doesn’t belong? Believe it or not, none. Given the vast amount of time we college age students spend on social media sites, it’s no wonder employers increasingly turn to social media to research job applicants. For the average Princeton student it’s easy to dress spiffy and speak intelligently in an interview. But what about that other person you put out there for the world to see—the one before we get to the interview. In other words, Google Search yourself. Surprised, anyone?
Now most of us probably don’t know what our Facebooks look like to the average employer. In fact, most students are pretty sure their accounts are private. But are you sure? Do you really know those pictures from last night are not front-and-center on your profile? Probably, you don’t.
Here’s what to do. You can start by reading Facebook’s novel of a guide on Privacy Controls. Here’ the short story version: everyone can see what Facebook calls “public information,” including name profile picture, gender, username, user ID (account number), and your networks. In other words, one of the most important thing you can do is keep the profile picture professional.
UNLESS, that is, you Jason Bourne your profile. In other words, make yourself unsearchable. Under Privacy Settings, go to “How You Connect,” then “Who can look up your profile by name or contact info?” and select “Friends.” That way you won’t pop up when employers search for you. For all but the forward-thinking few who use Facebook to speak eloquently about current events, this is probably a good thing.
Just to complicate things a little more, there’s the new Timeline format. Don’t want employers seeing that “is O.M.G. Bobby is SOOOOO CUUUTTEE like lol” from 7th grade? Or the seven hundred status updates with a similarly test-infused lingo? You have two options. Either limit the visibility of the specific post (available through the pull-down tab in the status update’s top right corner) or, under Privacy Settings, go to “Limit the Audience for Past Posts,” and you’ll be able to limit your entire timeline to friends only.
But in case, like me, you’re already “friends” with potential employers, here’s the tricky part. With Facebook’s new settings, privacy is often a case-by-case basis, making it all the more complicated. So while you might list one Wall post as only available to “Close Friends,” another may be available to “Everyone.” This goes for everything from personal info to tagged photos. So it’s a good idea to customize your default settings so that all your statuses about Justin Bieber don’t immediately go public. (Guilty!)
Finally, the moment of truth: the best way to really see what your profile looks like to the average employer, use a non-friend account to check it out. For most of you, this means Mom and Dad. Or you could just go to privacy settings, click on “learn more,” click on “Profile” at the top, then go to the blue box near the bottom titled “know what others see on your profile. You may be quite surprised.
You can also, believe it or not, use social media to enhance your chance of getting a job. If you’re interested in a field where currency is key, join Twitter. It will help you get news in your field right when it happens. Start by following your favorite sources of news or your favorite academics. For instance, now that Cornel West is no longer on campus, catch his words of wisdom via Twitter. Then, don’t be afraid to join in the debates. If you have something intelligent to say, by all means, say it! Or, well, tweet it. This will not only keep you informed, but show employers that you’re an active participant in your prospective field already!
For more information about how to create an employer-friendly social media presence check out this article on YouTern with a really great info-graphic on the subject: ow.ly/8pXLu.