TalentWorks Digital Career Guide

The Very Fine Line Online

Career Consultant Brad Karsh Shares the Good, Bad and the Ugly of Hunting for a Job on Social Networking Sites

By Published on .

Let's start with a personal story. Way back in the spring of 2006, we were looking to hire an intern at our company. As one of the candidates was coming to interview, I went on Facebook to check him out. Yes, I was on Facebook back then. I know, I'm pretty cool -- especially since you needed a .edu at the time.

So anyway, as I checked out Jack's profile, I found he had listed his interests as: "Smokin' blunts with the homies," "Bustin' caps into whitey" and a few others which I'm not at liberty to print in this publication. Now did I think Jack was joking around when he wrote that? The answer is yes. I'm quite confident he was not killing white people. But, what did that say about Jack's professionalism, judgment and maturity? We walk a very fine line when it comes to what is appropriate online behavior and what could cost us a job.

The good

The fact is, the social networking sites can be wonderful tools for the workplace. If you are a new-business director and while searching Linkedin, you discover that your college buddy is now director of marketing at McDonald's, I think you just found yourself a new best friend.

If you are in the job market, you would be wise to get online and try to find someone you know at the companies you're trying to work for. Don't forget the networking part of social networking -- it's the best way to land a job.

Connecting with colleagues, future business partners and potential employers is a great way to use all of the social networking sites.

The bad

But with anything relating to careers, there's a right way and wrong way. Just like you may seek out potential clients or employers online, companies are using social networks to check you out. Are you sure your profile is something a potential employer would find appropriate?

Making the hiring decision is a difficult and incredibly important process. Going into any job search, an employer wants to be as knowledgeable as possible about a new hire. Remember, they are sinking considerable resources in both time and money into an employee.

As such, employers and hiring managers use as many tools as they can to determine if you are the right person.
Brad Karsh
Brad Karsh is president of JobBound and JB Training Solutions. He spent 15 years at Leo Burnett in Chicago.
They expect you to put your best foot forward on a resume, in an interview and even in your online profile. If they see something that looks unprofessional or out of place -- in any of the above -- it can be a determining factor in not getting a job.

Now, some folks have argued that a person's "private" life shouldn't matter when it comes to the job search. So what if someone enjoys smoking an occasional "blunt" or doing a keg stand or two? Students, especially, take issue with "prying" into their personal lives.

Hey, we're not naïve. We're not expecting everyone to be perfect. But the fact is, what employers find on the internet says as much about that person's character as it does about their judgment.

Let me explain. When you e-mail your friends, do you meticulously spell check, punctuate and proofread every single word? I'm guessing not. But when you send an e-mail to a potential employer, do you ensure that it is flawless? I hope so.

I know you don't spend every waking hour in a business suit. However, if you were to have that big interview with a company you were trying to impress, you may dress differently than you do on the weekend.

The same holds true for how you represent yourself online.

The mere fact that you think it's acceptable to post the picture of you in your Hooters T-shirt may make an employer doubt your judgment.

Remember, as I said before, hiring someone is a huge commitment on the part of the employer. They want to do their best to make the right choices.

Pretend you're a recruiting director and take this quiz:

1. All other things being equal, who is likely to be a more professional employee?
  1. Someone who sends a resume that is perfectly proofread
  2. Someone who sends a resume with three typos in it

2. All other things being equal, who is likely to be a more professional employee?
  1. Someone with a Facebook profile with no inappropriate photos
  2. Someone who has a Facebook profile with a picture of him posing with a stripper from his "5 days, 5 states, tons of girls 'n gin" photo album

Of course either candidate could be great, but seriously, who would you hire? More important, if you are the recruiting director, who do you think your boss and/or the CEO would like you to hire?

The ugly

It's one thing to do a disservice to yourself, but it's quite another when you drag your company through the mud.

Once you're on the job, the situation can get even uglier.

All of the networking sites have a spot for you to list your company name. People can then do searches to find out who is out there from that organization. It goes without saying that you need to keep all of your profiles professional.

Professional doesn't just mean absent of scandalous pictures. It also encompasses what you say about your company.

I've heard stories of employees getting fired because of disparaging comments about a manager or a company on a blog or social networking site.

Similarly, be mindful of blasting all of your contacts saying that you have a "friend" with the same background as you who is looking for a new job.

For the vast majority of people, sites liked Linkedin and even Facebook can be wonderful resources to use networking to help find a job and create new business opportunities. These sites are also a reflection of you. Make sure what a potential business partner sees puts you in a positive light.

Oh, and in case there was any doubt, Jack did not get the job.

P.S. Feel free to check me out on LinkedIn and Facebook!
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