I have to do this: a warning post about Facebook

One of the most frequent questions I get from students and recent grads is whether recruiters check out job candidates on the web–and on Facebook in particular.

My answer is yes. Definitely. Absolutely. No doubt about it. Recruiters, hiring managers, scholarship committees and internship coordinators love to tell me how they check out candidates on Facebook (and elsewhere on the web, courtesy of a simple Google search on a candidate’s name).

Don’t just take my word for it. This is a topic being discussed all over the media.

Although it feels like Facebook is all college kids, a recent BusinessWeek article titled “Fogeys Flock to Facebook (don’t get me started on that title) revealed that “11.5 million of the individual visitors to the site were 35 or older, more than double the number a year before…The 35-and-up crowd now accounts for more than 41% of all Facebook visitors.”

Newsweek shared statistics this week about how many of these “older” people are using Facebook, Google and other sites to check out job candidates:

“According to a March survey by Ponemon Institute, a privacy think tank, 35 percent of hiring managers use Google to do online background checks on job candidates, and 23 percent look people up on social networking sites. About one-third of those Web searches lead to rejections, according to the survey.”

My advice? Don’t post anything really bad (nudity, drugs, hatred of your job, really excessive profanity), even if you think it’s private. Because it isn’t. I love this quotation in the Newsweek story from Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputationdefender.com:

“People have a common misconception about how big their networks really are…Nothing on the Internet is private. Period.”

The bottom line: It’s totally fine to be on Facebook and have fun on it. Just be smart. Be careful. It would break my heart if you lost a great opportunity because of something you posted online.

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