First impressions in the workplace are no longer limited to an impressive list of references and whether you bleach your teeth; you may be missing out on that interview in the first place (or getting fired tomorrow) if your Facebook profile is less than stellar.
According to Forbes, nearly one in five technology industry executives say a candidate’s social media profile has determined the decision not to hire them. Surveys have found almost 40 percent of surveyed respondents from technology companies review job candidates’ profiles on social media sites, and another report predicts that 60 percent of employers will have formal social-media-snooping programs in place by 2015.
Protecting Your Data: Employer and Employee Rights
Earlier this year Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan stated that employers requiring applicants to disclose account login information are violating the company’s terms of service and could be subject to lawsuits by demanding access to users’ private updates. Egan also warned that employers could be accused of discrimination upon failing to hire after seeing an applicant’s information online (an applicant’s age or a pregnancy announcement, for instance). Additionally, HR managers are legally required to report evidence of any illegal activity found when snooping.
California has made it illegal for employers to ask for employees’ social media passwords; an employee cannot be asked to divulge any information about social media profiles. However, it is not illegal for an employer to look you up online, and past and present posts may haunt your professional life.
Tips to Keep It Professional on Facebook
- Don’t Vent – Avoid posting complaints about your boss or the company you work for, the number of times you pressed the snooze button this morning, or your brilliant idea to call in sick and play golf tomorrow. Especially avoid posting during work hours, as your current employer won’t find that amusing.
- Control Who Sees What – Use Facebook’s basic privacy controls to protect yourself. While keeping your profile private to anyone but friends is obviously wise, you may also segment your friends into separate lists to control who can see which status updates (i.e., “I’m pregnant!”).
- Use Privacy Settings – Make sure you can’t be tagged in photos (like last night at the bar) or that people can’t post comments on your profile without you first approving the tag or comment. You can adjust this in your timeline settings; set Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded? to No one.
- Act Intelligent – According to info from Jobvite, incorrect spelling in posts and tweets is slightly more annoying to employers than pictures of your last drinking binge.
- Post Political and Religious References with Caution – 18 to 26 percent of surveyed employers react negatively to political or religious posts and Tweets. Keep these posts between you and friends.
- Be a Show-Off – 80 percent of employers want to see memberships in professional organizations when looking at your social media profiles, to make sure you use this information to beef up your Linkedin profile. Employers also like to see volunteer and charity work, so don’t hold back on the photos from your humanitarian trips and community involvement. (Bonus: make one of those your timeline cover image on Facebook).
- Don’t Let Facebook’s Timeline Ruin You – Now that Facebook’s timeline makes old information more easily accessible, you may need to go weed through your old high school or college photos or posts. Get rid of anything negative, unimpressive, or downright embarrassing — including spelling mistakes. Facebook does have a settings that can limit visibility of old posts to friends only; click Home > Privacy settings > Limit audience for past posts > Manage post visibility > Limit old posts.
- Evade Search Results – If you’d prefer to keep your private life private, you can limit Facebook users searching for you by name to friends only, in your How you connect privacy settings.
- Don’t Do the Double-Life Thing – While keeping separate profiles for your personal and business matters may sound like a brilliant idea, it can get messy. Your safest bet is always to keep your main profiles clean, as you never know who’s watching. Again, try marking certain friends as “Professional” associations in order to control who sees what updates on Facebook.
- Use Facebook Groups for Networking - One way to benefit from Facebook’s enormous user base and to grow your professional network is to participate in Facebook Groups, a feature that allows Facebook users to connect with each other within the context of a common interest or topic.