Seniors’ social media may need some cleaning

For students graduating next month, it’s time to clean off shelves, empty dorm rooms, perhaps get a new haircut and a professional wardrobe. Then send a carefully crafted resume to companies that fit your dream job and wait for that first interview to come. But there might be something else too.

It has become a common practice for companies to Google an applicant’s name when deciding whether or not to interview them. Or more directly, companies, colleges and scholarship providers are asking applicants for their social media account passwords during interviews; looking for offensive material, comments or photos that may reflect a candidate’s personality.

“From the day one on campus, students should be thinking of the day they’ll graduate and having developed their professional presence,” said Shirl Short, associate director for Student Services.
Short points out that on ExecutNet, a national recruitment site with a local chapter, recent research shows that 90 percent of recruiters Google candidates’ names before interviewing them and 50 percent have eliminated a candidate because of negative information they found during their search.

“Think before you post, should be the mantra every student should have back in their head,” Short said.

By the time you are a senior in college, you may not remember what you posted when you were in high school. NKU students graduating in December 2012 will be the first generation with a massive presence online from high school through four years of college.

Since 2004, when Facebook was created, the issue of whether employers are allowed to ask for passwords and to discriminate against employees or candidates based on their out-of-work activities has been raised on several fronts.

Currently there is no federal law to stop employers from asking potential employees for their social media passwords. At state level, bills have been passed in Maryland and Illinois, yet they have not been put into effect. California is working on legislation to outlaw this practice.

Some argue that the Equal Employment Act reinforces the notion that companies have no right to ask a potential candidate their social media password because it is the equivalent to being asked certain pieces of personal information such as race, religion, age or political affiliation; precisely the type of information regularly disclosed in Facebook profiles.

Tricia Allen, a counseling and human services major at NKU who will be graduating next December, said she would not give her password if a prospective employer asked for it because she does not believe what’s on her Facebook profile can provide anything about her work ethics to a company thinking about hiring her.

You don’t need to despair if you’ve partied too hard for the last four years and have made it public online. If you read recent news reports, even powerful generals sometimes forget better judgment altogether and engage in certain inappropriate behavior on the Internet that cost them their jobs.

If “think before you post” is too late for you and issues of privacy or equal employment are not lawfully resolved, there are ways to improve your professional image online: erase some faux pas and prepare for an adequate answer if asked to provide your password during a job interview.

Before applying for a job, adjust your Facebook profile’s privacy settings, then Google your name to check what kind of information will come up.
Removing your information from popular search engines such as Spokeo is a good start and fairly easy to do. Go on their site and type in your name, click privacy on the bottom right of the screen and follow the steps.

You can delete racy pictures and comments that may be considered inappropriate or unprofessional in your Facebook profile, but if one of your friends tagged you or shared your content somewhere else, the information may be spread beyond your control.

Also consider getting rid of a large number of virtual friends. According to a Western Illinois University research, unless you are a celebrity, having thousands of friends may give an impression of a narcissistic personality trait that will not impress most companies’ vision of a “team worker.”

In a article, Tony Morrison, Vice President of Business Development at Cachinko, a job matching and career networking site, advises to say no and stand your ground when a company asks you for your password.

Short said students should limit the number of social network sites they join so it will be easy to manage what they post and share.
Before you start printing and sending your resume, take a cautious look at your online footprints, fix what you can, consider joining a professional site such as LinkedIn, update and enhance your strengths and go forward. Welcome to the real world, virtually speaking.