Posted Oct. 6, 2008 -- Great parties usually mean great pictures, but think long and hard before uploading those photos to your social networking Web page. The proliferation of social networking sites and powerful search engines makes it easy for friends to keep track of you, but friends aren't the only ones who will have access to your latest escapades. A lack of digital privacy also means employers can be privy to information you might not want them to find.
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According to a CareerBuilder.com survey, 26 percent of hiring managers say they have used Internet search engines to research potential employees. More than one-in-ten admit to using social networking sites in their candidate screening processes.
Many of these employers don't like what they find. Fully half of hiring managers who used search engines to research candidates didn't hire the person based on what they found. Of the managers who browsed social networking sites, 63 percent found dirt that caused them to dismiss a candidate.
Interestingly, many candidates are far more honest online than they are on their résumés. Thirty-one percent of hiring managers say they have disqualified a candidate after searching the Web and discovering the candidate had lied about his or her qualifications. Other dismissals resulted from:
Poor communication skills (25 percent)
Criminal behavior (24 percent)
Badmouthing previous companies or employees (19 percent)
Posting information about drinking or drug use (19 percent)
Disclosing confidential information about previous employers (15 percent)
Lying about an absence (12 percent)
Provocative or inappropriate photographs (11 percent)
Unprofessional screen name (8 percent)
It's not all bad
While sharing information online can have a potentially negative impact on your job search or career plans, it can also be leveraged as a tool to differentiate yourself to employers. Hiring managers said the following information discovered on the Web helped to confirm their decision to hire a candidate:
Background information that supported the candidate's professional qualifications (64 percent)
A wide range of interests that made the candidate appear well-rounded (40 percent)
Great communication skills (34 percent)
A professional image (31 percent)
Signs that the candidate would be a good personality fit for the company culture (31 percent)
To ensure your online persona won't kill your job search:
1. Be careful. 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 or lewd jokes 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 only your friends can view it. And since you can't control what other people say on your site, employ the "block comments" feature. Remember, everything on the Internet is archived!
3. Be prepared. Check your profile regularly to see what comments have been posted, and run your own name through a search engine to see what's out there. 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."