Internet sites could harm job hunt

Popular social-networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook can help people keep in touch with friends and band together under a common interest, but it can also have negative repercussions.

One of the main topics associate director of Residential Life, Pete Trentacoste, addresses is the concept of online image management. He has lectured at more than 20 University 101 classes as well as at other campuses. He warns students of the dangers they risk by posting too much private information. conducted a survey concluding half the 750 employers surveyed believed online information should be considered in an employment decision.

“Several students have not been hired for jobs or offered leadership positions because their Facebook wall posts or photos were not consistent with the values that are important in student leadership roles, character, ethics and integrity,” said Director of Student Life, Betty Mulkey. However, she said not many local employers Student Life works with say they use Facebook for screening purposes.

Employers could find answers to questions on social-networking sites that they cannot legally ask in interviews. Trentacoste said behaviors such as heavy drinking and drug use that appear on the sites could influence potential employers, depending on their values. He thinks the Facebook accounts he has seen while visiting the site feed college stereotypes and do not “portray students in the best light.”

“People put their personal business out there on sites like Facebook and MySpace so much now that it really puts them at risk for not getting a job, compared to somebody that may not have that electronic record of themselves online,” Trentacoste said. “Not having an online presence in some ways is better than having one. No information is good information.”

A student shouldn’t assue they are safe because of Facebook rules or strict privacy settings. Trentacoste said students often do not consider a potential employer or reference might have access to a university e-mail account as faculty, alumni or even current students at the school. Despite these factors, a person determined to find information could draw conclusions without even viewing the profile. All they have to do is type a keyword into the search feature and watch as profiles appear. All users who have the keyword listed in their profile will come up, and the section the term is located in will be highlighted, such as “interests.” If the keyword searched is “drugs” and it shows up under “interests” the person could draw conclusions. Even under the highest privacy setting, the user’s photo and name still appear.

Searching the Northern Kentucky network on Facebook for the word “drinking” yields 488 profiles. Much fewer result from the keyword “drugs.” When looking at some profiles that the “drug” keyword search yields, the term appeared under interests because the user said he does not use drugs, or used it in a joke. If the person searching the keyword could not see these profiles, he would not see the context of the word.

Under the Patriot Act, even without university e-mail addresses, state agencies can view any of a particular individual’s information, according to Keley Smith-Keller, director of the Career Development Center. State agencies could choose to research job applicants on the site.

“I think Facebook inherently is a good program,” Trentacoste said. “I would’ve definitely had things posted if I were a student and had it available to me, but the reality is that what you share on there, you’re opening yourself up for problems if it’s stuff that you would not necessarily want people to know, like a coach or parent.”