"Even if you might make [your social networking page] private, sometimes
the friends that you allow access to (Facebook, for example), become ex-friends,"
says Matt Kerr. He's an executive search consultant in Illinois. "You never
know what happens once you put something in cyberspace, or how it can be used
or twisted." For instance, an ex-best friend might use photos or posts from
your social networking page to make you look bad.
The Internet has a long memory. "Once you have something up there, it's
hard to change it," says Kerr.
Kerr warns against flaming -- posting negative things about companies or
people. Posting tasteless jokes, negative comments and wild photos can damage
your own online image, even if they're just part of a personal blog.
Derek Gagne is president of a corporate services consulting firm. He suggests
not posting messages at all when you're angry. "You post a rant about XYZ
Company because they're terrible -- for whatever reasons," he says. "That
may be true, but it might not be the best place to post it since it may not
be seen as the most constructive way to resolve the issue."
"A lot of employers do a Facebook search before even deciding to call somebody
up for an interview," Gagne says. "It's almost like a first screening interview."
What they discover on your social networking page may very well affect how
that person views you. So, try to keep it positive."
Nicole Wyatt is a recruiting manager for Disney ABC Television Group. She
says a colleague once told her about a quick online check that showed a job
candidate for a major financial institution had a blog about the evils of
capitalism. "How would this particular applicant, if hired, prove to make
the best decisions for the company if he was so passionate about anti-capitalism?"
"Checking websites is not company policy of Disney ABC Television Group,
but it is becoming more popular with certain employers," Wyatt says. "What
an employer would look for truly depends on what type of position the job
seeker is applying to."
Kerr says some larger firms are starting to hire people to check applicants'
references and backgrounds. "It's becoming more prevalent," he says. "They'll
check all sorts of things, and that could include social networking sites."
Even if companies don't search social networking websites, prospective
employers can still learn a lot about job candidates by running their names
or e-mail addresses through search engines like Google or Yahoo.
It's helpful to use different e-mail addresses for fun and work. That way,
silly things you posted under an address like GirlyGirl@whatever.com won't
be found in a search by prospective employers. For work and school, it's important
to make sure your e-mail address sounds professional.
"I know of [human resources] people who will just delete e-mail that comes
from some strange-sounding e-mail address, (so make sure the address you use
is conservative)," Kerr advises.
When creating a business-like e-mail address, Gagne suggests pretending
that you're shaking hands with someone and introducing yourself. "What are
you going to say to that person?" he asks.
Anyone can get free e-mail addresses through places like Gmail, Yahoo!
and Hotmail. Just keep it simple.
"The ideal e-mail address would include your name as it also acts as a
quick reference to your information," Wyatt says. If your name isn't available
as an e-mail address, she suggests combining your name with your area of interest,
The good news is you can also use social networking sites, blogs and your
own website to start building your reputation long before you enter the job
"Use them to either highlight or add to the information you might see on
a resume," Gagne says. Even if you've never had a job, you can still list
your volunteer work and any student groups you belong to. "Highlighting the
extracurricular things shows you're getting involved and going above and beyond,"
You can also mention any activities, accomplishments or special projects
you've been involved in. Don't forget scouting, honorary societies and teams.
"In business, it's all about how well you play in the sandbox with others
to get things done," Kerr says. Even if the activities aren't connected to
your major, they show you have life skills and initiative.
Posting this kind of information on a personal website, Facebook or MySpace
page is a great start. But older students may also consider joining a professional
social networking site, such as LinkedIn.
There's another thing people can do with social networking tools, says
Kerr. They can research the companies they might like to work for. He suggests
ZoomInfo, a free online tool, as a good place to start.
"If you want to find out more about a company, or about the person interviewing
you, get on ZoomInfo and check them out," Kerr says. "See if the person you're
interviewing with is published. Then get on LinkedIn, because chances are
the person interviewing you will have a professional profile [on LinkedIn]."
Then, if you find your interviewer has an interest in a particular area, such
as education, try to mention it in your interview, he suggests.
Kerr says there's no excuse for not knowing about companies and interviewers,
since so much of the information is readily available online. Interviewers
appreciate job candidates who take initiative and ask questions.
To improve your odds of landing a great job, Wyatt suggests exploring and
creating pages on major social networking sites and web pages. "Build your
own professional page and develop relationships on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn
and MySpace -- to name a few," she says. "Most companies... now allow for
job seekers to join as members or fans. Conduct searches on top employers
and connect to them in other ways than just applying to specific jobs."
So, start clicking.