Checking in on social media sites is becoming more prevelant in the modern job hunt, according to Cal Poly Career Services counselor Charlotte Rinaldi.
The line dividing professional from personal life is now blurred, Rinaldi said. According to her, though most employers still use traditional methods when hiring, the use of social media to evaluate applicants is becoming increasingly popular.
“You’re going to be sitting next to them at work, every day, for hours,” Rinaldi said. “Employers want to know who they’re really hiring. And now they can. Before they couldn’t; now they have the option to know.”
Approximately 80 percent of hiring managers said they review applicants’ online content, market research company Cross-Tab reported from a 2010 survey. Of those hiring managers who responded, 70 percent also said they had rejected candidates based on information found online. More than half of the rejections were due to inappropriate photos or information.
Any information that can be found online about an individual becomes a part of that person’s “brand,” their public image, Rinaldi said. That image includes everything from how an individual carries him or herself to their close acquaintances to pictures posted from last weekend. This is an issue for most college students, as personal social media does not tend to portray positive professional attributes, she said.
“Facebook has become another résumé, another representation of who we are as a professional, even though it’s a personal communication tool,” Rinaldi said.
Cal Poly students don’t consider the content they have online as a valid or useful reflection of their professional work ethic.
What does what students do on Friday night have to do with how they work on Monday morning, industrial engineering senior Rex Blodgett said.
The point of social media is to escape from the work world and stresses of the day, Blodgett said. He said his online profile isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of his work ethic as a professional.
“There aren’t any pictures of you studying at the library, or sitting in class, or having fantastically thought-provoking conversations with your roommates,” Blodgett said. “It doesn’t show who you are or what you do from 8 a.m to 5 p.m.”
Courtney Meznarich, the intern supervisor for local news station KSBY, said she looks at Cal Poly student applicants’ online profiles. Social media is a useful tool in determining academic and professional drive when hiring new interns, especially in fields where public relations is prominent, she said.
“We look them up, we evaluate them to make sure they’re serious about learning and about school,” Meznarich said. “We want students who will get the most out of the internship, not students just trying to fulfill their internship requirement.”
Students can make changes to their social media outlets to make them more favorable to employers. They can Google themselves to see what content they are associated with, and can even set up Google alerts to be notified when anything new becomes searchable, Rinaldi said.
If students have aspects of their social profiles that they wouldn’t want potential employers to see, they should make sure to adjust privacy settings appropriately, Rinaldi said. This tactic is not foolproof though, as many large-scale employers have ways around privacy settings.
Untagging one’s self from anything a student wouldn’t want a potential employer to see is a good idea, Rinaldi said. And be careful of what others post that shows up on your feed, as that content also becomes part of your brand, she said.
Students generally try to control what can be seen about them after it has already been posted online, Rinaldi said, though some students choose to prevent the content from being created in the first place.
Students have the choice to be intentional and proactive about their social media, said Cal Poly Career Services counselor Amie Hammond. Employers look at social media to see how consistent it is. They want to see if the person they interviewed matches up with who they really are. And that’s what they can tell from Facebook, Hammond said.
“Students need to take control of what’s viewable about them online,” Hammond said. “Make it positive, make it what they would want a potential employer to see, because they’re going to be able to find it.”
The Cal Poly Career Services office hosts workshops and events every quarter to help Cal Poly students be more successful in finding jobs or internships, especially when it comes to social media. Hammond presents a workshop quarterly entitled “I’m on LinkedIn, Now What?” which is a hands-on tutorial on how to use social media to your vocational advantage.
LinkedIn has become the professional alternative to Facebook. Ranked ninth on the “Top 500 Sites in the United States” and hosting more than 75 million users, the Cal Poly Career Services office swears by LinkedIn for the networking opportunities it provides students, Hammond said.
A LinkedIn profile hosts an online résumé, and the site allows for job searching and networking. Students can use it to provide employers with a positive searchable online identity, Hammond said.
Approximately 92 percent of college students reported using Facebook — with the average student spending close to two hours on Facebook a day and visiting the site six times — reported Education Database Online.
In an interview with broadcast journalist Charlie Rose, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said people have become more comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. Social media has become a compulsive habit for almost all college students, and conveys a great sense of one’s character to the world.
“The question isn’t ‘What do we want to know about people?’ It’s ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?” Zuckerberg said in the interview.
This article was written by Madison Halvorson.