Social media can make or break chances for a job
More than 2.8 billion people have joined a new developing world: the world of social media.
Most people aren't aware of how this new world can affect getting a job, or the fact that it allows strangers to access information they may not want to be public.
"The number one thing that everyone knows, but a lot of people fail to think about, is that the internet is public," said Kathryn Provost, director of Norwich University career development center. "Employers can now hire companies whose business focus is to delve into social media sites."
Students in search of jobs are not fully aware of the consequences of being part of the social media world. It can have a positive or negative impact on their eligibility for a job if they are not careful with what they post online.
"I don't post anything on Facebook that I wouldn't want my mom to read," said Libby Flannigan. "I have pictures of myself drinking, but I'm not doing anything inappropriate in the pictures and I'm of age, so why should I worry?"
The 23-year-old recent graduate from Curry College got a job right out of college at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph, Vt. She said at the time she was hired, she was friends with her boss and the head of human resources on Facebook.
Provost explained that "social media sites can be an enhancement to a student's resume and cover letter, or a detriment." It's all based on what students are posting on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, she said.
For Samantha Brochu, Facebook wasn't a negative in showing her interactions with people; it showed her current employer how well she related to people online.
"I've always used Facebook as a way to communicate with the people who were most important to me and I never felt I had to be inappropriate about it," she said. "I took it upon myself to use social media in a positive manner and show why I should be hired."
The 23-year-old recent graduate from Norwich University landed a job at an elementary school and was told her Facebook would be looked into, to make sure she was the right fit to be teaching young children.
"They were impressed with how I could interact with people. They also liked the fact that I was young and hadn't posted a bunch of pictures of myself drinking or doing things that some companies would find offensive, like wearing skimpy clothing."
The kind of positive information companies are looking for include, for example, verifying a claim an applicant has made on his or her resume, according to Provost. Negative information is anything the employer could deem as being potentially harmful to the business, or behavior that could damage the company's reputation."
Samantha Bubar, a 22-year-old senior English major from Barre, Vt., said she uses her Facebook page to keep in touch with close friends, family and classmates that don't check their email regularly. She is well aware of how social media sites can affect one's image.
"I think it's ridiculous that some students think that potential employers can't get ahold of what they post on Facebook or other social media sites," Bubar explained. "Once you put something on the web, you can't take it back or control who gets ahold of that information."
"I don't think enough people are aware that they can ruin their own reputation by posting things others may find offensive or inappropriate on their Facebook pages, or they simply just don't care," Flannigan said.
"Companies are looking into social media pages to see if applicants are part of the social media network," Provost said. "Companies aren't trying to hide it either, but so many people are fearful it's harmful to getting a job."
Provost said that Careerbuilder.com, Microsoft.com, and Google.com have reported that there is a broad range - as few as 26 percent, and as much as 77 percent - among employers in use of Google to find out basic applicant information, and that conducting social media site checks is getting easier and easier.
"For other social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as few as 18 percent, to as many as 79 percent of employers, check these sites," Provost added. "Employers can now hire companies whose business focus is on social media sites."
For the companies whose specialties are researching people through social media, their focus is to find a person and information about them. They then report what they find all before a job is ever offered, Provost said.
"I know my employers had looked at my Facebook page before I was offered the job because they told me," Flannigan said.
She was cautious with what she posted on her Facebook page and said that people shouldn't be afraid to be themselves online, just be appropriate about it.
Bubar said she has started applying for jobs and it was recommended to her that she temporarily take down her Facebook page. Bubar said she believes she has nothing inappropriate or offensive and her Facebook is part of her personality.
"I don't post anything inappropriate on Facebook or Twitter and I think that the reasons as to what is inappropriate, is obvious," said 19-year-old Thomas Carson. "I do believe, however, that some people aren't aware of what employers frown upon."
The top three reasons for not hiring a candidate based upon their social media sites are: inappropriate videos and photos, drinking and drug use, and bad- mouthing former employers or individuals, Provost said.
"No one wants to hire a drug addict who breaks the law," Carson said. "I think that it is good for employers to check Facebook pages to see what kind of reputation a person is giving and whether or not they would be good for the company."
Carson, a sophomore communications major from Winthrop, Maine, said that some people abuse their social media privileges by posting pictures and words that some people may find offensive and that could possibly prevent them from getting a job they have dreamed about.
Not only are these photos disturbing and highly offensive, but he said it is not what he wants to see when he logs on to his Facebook.
"People post things on Facebook that they would never say in person and this could make them look bad even if they aren't," Bubar said. "They could be giving off the wrong impression to future employers by doing this, by simply trying to act cool."
Bubar said that social media has become a whole new culture and younger generations are heavily relying on Facebook to interact. This is turning them into people who act completely different online, than they would in person.
"I think that young girls in particular sometimes see the internet and social media as a way to get attention, and not always in a good way," Bubar said. "I mentor an eighth grader and have seen some inappropriate statuses and pictures (that) are shocking."
Bubar said she has seen photos of eighth graders posting photos of themselves in bikinis, posing and pulling their shirts up. "When I was their age, I wasn't thinking of ever doing anything like that."
"I don't think our generation or the younger generation is aware of what they are doing to themselves with Facebook and Twitter accounts," said 24-year-old JP Quinlan. "I don't believe they think that five or 10 years down the road, they will realize I didn't get my dream job because of what I posted on my Facebook page."
The senior communications major from Manasquan, N.J., said he doesn't think that using social media websites should be harmful, but said some people abuse the freedoms online.
"I think the younger generation needs to realize that Facebook isn't a place to use nasty language," Flannigan said. "I believe it should be something that represents a person and could also be used for professionalism."
"Social media has gotten way out of hand and people aren't aware that this is a new lifestyle," Bubar said. "This is how people are being viewed by their teachers, classmates, family members and the entire world."
Still, Flannigan said she is a strong believer in using social websites to interact and thinks it is a good way to stay in contact with everyone, even your employer.
"If you're a responsible person then you deserve to be respected and it shouldn't matter who views your Facebook, just don't be vulgar," she said.
Provost said she recommends that if students do not want employers viewing their social website pages, then simply don't have a page, clean up all online information that is possible and make sure you edit your privacy settings to who can and cannot view your page.
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