Social media has infiltrated everyone’s lives, with more than 500 million active users of Facebook, 190 million users on Twitter and countless users on other social media sites. Social media platforms can be wonderful tools in the social and professional realms. While you connect and see friends, social media can be a professional tool as well. A prime example is employers checking in on potential employees.
Among human resource professionals, 89 percent think it is acceptable and appropriate for employers to check on a potential employee’s online presence, said Sandy Nowack, assistant director of Career Services: Internships. They specifically look at Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Google searches.
“Do they really? Yes they do,” said Andrew Pyrc, assistant director of Career Services: Job Development.
Pyrc said that it has become a fairly standard practice to check potential employees’ Facebook profile and web presence. Though employers view this as normal and fine, only 15 percent of employees think that their online activity should affect receiving a job.
Platforms such as LinkedIn and LaunchPad tend to be more professionally focused and students understand that, Pyrc said. But socially-oriented sites such as Facebook can be more problematic in the working world.
Though many companies may check on future staff members, Whitworth does not, said Dolores Humiston, associate vice president of human resources.
Currently the university does not have a formal policy on use of social media but one is in the works. The policy would apply to the multiple dimensions of social media such as marketing, alumni relations and background checks.
An employer should get its first professional opinion of an employee from a job interview, not from content online, Nowack said.
First, Nowack suggests that you check the privacy settings on your account. Having low privacy settings is like inviting an employer into a messy house, she said. You as an employee don’t necessarily want everything you post online seen by everyone.
Second, review your information listed on your profile. Update information about your previous employers, education and interests. Clearly outdated information looks sloppy and like you did not care enough to change it.
Nowack points out that when you list your education, specifically the university you attend such as Whitworth, you are representing the school to your friends and employers.
Information and education can easily be changed to fit the current you. However interests can be a bit more tricky. Nowack says to create a “brand” for yourself, a way you would like people to view you. This can be done through what groups you join, pages you like, quotations you list and favorite movies or music you mention.
Each area gives an outsider an impression of who you are. Thus simple fixes such as listing favorite books along with movies and music can make you appear more well-rounded. Listings inspirational or humorous quotes can be a plus but make sure they are not inside jokes that could be misconstrued.
“If you want to work at a conservative workplace, maybe lay off the death metal bands,” Nowack said.
Finally, think about what you say before hitting the “post” button. Realize that posts written in a state of anger or other extreme emotions can often be exaggerated. Stop and think before you post.
Could this be seen as hurtful or degrading? Would I want everyone at Whitworth to read what I am about to post? These two questions can help determine whether the status update, blog post or tweet is professional and appropriate for cyberspace.
Some students at Whitworth realize that employers will look at social media sites, but don’t think it’s necessarily a good practice.
Freshman Theresa Benz said social media can be a safeguard against resume padding or presenting a false front in an interview.
It has pros and cons, for people can display inaccurate information on either their resume or their Facebook, she said.
Junior Michael Baxter was uneasy about the idea of employers looking at Facebook profiles.
“I don’t feel like it’s the way they [employers] should go about it,” Baxter said. “As an individual you have to expect people to see it, but it’s not the best way.”
Sophomore Lucas Nolta disagreed because Facebook is a public website.
“We live in public — you need to expect that it’s not private,” he said.