That cute, affable guy who brags of his drunken exploits on
FaceBook.com may be meeting a lot of other partiers online, but
he’s probably not getting added to the “friends” lists of many
corporate recruiters. A recent study by the executive search firm
ExecuNet found that 77 percent of recruiters run searches of
candidates on the Web to screen applicants; 35 percent of these
same recruiters say they’ve eliminated a candidate based on the
information they uncovered.
“You’d be surprised at what I’ve seen when researching
candidates,” says Gail, a recruiter at a Fortune 500 company who
recently began looking up potential hires on the Web. “We were
having a tough time deciding between two candidates until I found
the profile of one of them on MySpace. It boasted a photo of her
lounging on a hammock in a bikini, listed her interests as ‘having
a good time’ and her sex as ‘yes, please.’ Not quite what we were
looking for.”
“Another time I went to a candidate’s site and found racial
slurs and jokes,” Gail continues. “And there was yet another
instance where a candidate told me he was currently working for a
company, yet he left a comment on a friend’s profile about how it
‘sucked’ to be laid off, and how much fun it was to be
unemployed!”
As the amount of personal information available online grows,
first impressions are being formed long before the interview
process begins, warns David Opton, ExecuNet CEO and founder. “Given
the implications and the shelf-life of Internet content, managing
your online image is something everyone should address –
regardless of whether or not you’re in a job search,” he says.
Because the risks don’t stop once you’re hired.
Twenty-three-year old Kara recently took a job as a management
consultant at a high-profile practice in the Los Angeles area. An
Ohio native, with no friends or family on the West Coast, Kara put
up a profile on MySpace in the hopes of meeting new people.
Kara was judicious in how she set up her site: “I didn’t fill
out that cheesy questionnaire many people post, where you describe
your best feature and say whether or not you shower every day.” she
says. “I used a photo that was flattering but not at all
provocative and was even careful what music I chose.”
Within a few months, Kara met many others online who shared her
interest in biking and water sports. One Friday morning, Kara
decided to call in sick and go surfing with a few of her new pals.
That weekend, unbeknownst to Kara, her friend posted some of the
day’s pictures on her profile and sent Kara a message saying, “We
should call in sick more often.”
Unfortunately for Kara, her boss happened to be patrolling
MySpace to check up on her college-age daughter and came across
Kara’s site and the dated photos!
Mortified, Kara says she learned an important lesson — not only
about honesty, but about how small the world of online social
networking can be and how little control you have over any
information put out there.
Not all employers search candidates and employees online, but
the trend is growing. Don’t let online social networking deep-six
your career opportunities. Protect your image by following these
simple tips:
  1. Be careful. Nothing is private. Don’t post
    anything on your site or your “friends” sites you wouldn’t want a
    prospective employer to see. Derogatory comments, revealing or
    risqué photos, foul language and lewd jokes all will be viewed as a
    reflection of your character.
  2. Be discreet. If your network offers the
    option, consider setting your profile to “private,” so that it is
    viewable only by friends of your choosing. And since you can’t
    control what other people say on your site, you may want to use the
    “block comments” feature. Remember, everything on the Internet is
    archived, and there is no eraser!
  3. Be prepared. Check your profile regularly to
    see what comments have been posted. Use a search engine to look for
    online records of yourself to see what is out there about you. If
    you find information you feel could be detrimental to your
    candidacy or career, see about getting it removed — and make sure
    you have an answer ready to counter or explain “digital dirt.”
This article is courtesy of Careerbuilder.com

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