10 Feb Your online profile can make you lose face
Associated Press, By Candice Choi, February 9, 2009
Someone is trying to sabotage your career. It’s your online persona. With smaller budgets and less staff to conduct interviews, companies are increasingly using social networking sites as a way to screen prospective hires. Social networking sites typically let you post as much information about yourself as you like, including your education, work history and favorite music and books. How much you should reveal varies depending on your situation, of course. In some creative fields, showcasing a quirky sense of humor might score you points. But that’s not always the case. The bottom line is that if you’re looking to land (or keep) a job, you need treat your online profile like a resumé — keep it scrubbed and up to date. Here are a few points to keep in mind. One of the first steps in staying on top of your online profile is being aware of the privacy settings. Facebook lets you join networks that tie users with a common bond, whether it’s a company, school or where you live. You need a valid e-mail address to join the first two types of networks, but anyone can join a regional network. The default setting on the site lets friends and everyone in your network see your profile. If you’re not comfortable with this setup, you can tweak settings to control who sees what. You can even cherry pick which friends can see photos. It’s always safer to assume anything you post online can become public. After all, Facebook has more than 140 million registered users, although the company doesn’t disclose what percentage of that is in the United States. There’s nothing wrong with revealing your love of biking, dogs or Malcolm Gladwell books. But even if you set up a profile for personal reasons and don’t intend for potential employers to see it, there’s a good chance they’ll search for it. A member survey by the Society for Human Resource Management last year found 34 percent said they currently use social networking sites to recruit potential applicants, while another 19 percent said they plan to in the future. Of those who used social networking sites to screen applicants, 47 percent said did so before contacting the applicant for the first time. It can work in your favor to share your interests online. Even LinkedIn, a social networking site designed specifically for professionals, includes a field where users can list interests. The idea is that such personal details can help forge bonds in the professional world. It happens all the time in face-to-face interviews; people click over a shared alma mater, hometown or hobby. There are a couple rules to remember if you’re using a social networking site specifically to network for a job. To start, don’t bother posting the vacation, party or new baby pictures. Limit your photo to a recent head shot. It should resemble a picture you’d see on an executive bio. Another mistake people often make on LinkedIn is only listing their current job. Listing your all your experience gives recruiters a better sense of your abilities and widens the chances that you’ll get a nibble. There’s also a reason LinkedIn doesn’t have fields for religious and political views. Companies can’t turn people away for political or religious reasons, but they’re sensitive topics better left to your personal life. If you’re unsure about whether to include certain details, a good barometer is ask whether you’d list it on a resumé. You might feel more relaxed about what you post if you’re employed and comfortable with your boss and co-workers. But airing personal details about yourself online can still affect your work. Unless you’re encouraged to, don’t mix your online profile with work. That means no logging on to your account to post updates about being bored at work or including links to your profile in company e-mails.