So you’ve finally decided to ditch your summertime gig as an Applebee’s hostess or public pool lifeguard. Congrats, mazel tov, love the ambition! Now it’s time to apply for a real job or internship. You’ve spent countless hours in Career Services perfecting your resume, written approximately 47 drafts of your cover letter, and mastered the art of self-assured eye contact during your mock interviews. Surely you’re on the path to success.
But WAIT, dear bright-eyed future members of the global workforce—for there is one important detail that must not be overlooked: your social media presence. Yes, this means your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, eHarmony, MySpace (if by chance you’re still livin’ it up 2006 style) or any other account on which your name, photos, or personal info might be accessible. You may think that setting all your photo albums to “private” is enough to protect your rep, but in reality it’s not always that simple.
According to the New York Times, 35 percent of employers have rejected a job candidate based on information found via social networking sites. You can bet that someone in the human resources department is Googling your name and scouring through the search results. It may seem slightly invasive or stalkerish, but it’s a fact that every job seeker must keep in mind.
So, those pics of you taking bong hits with your bros last weekend probably won’t increase your chances of landing an internship with Goldman Sachs. And that drunk tweet you sent out last month (“OMgg just peed on a police caaar!! #shitfaced”)? It will come back to haunt you. A general rule of thumb: if you’d be embarrassed to show your grandma a photo or post, you probably shouldn’t put it up in the first place—or at least you should delete it as soon as you’re sober. But remember, in this age of screen captures and digital archives, even posts you think you removed could still be floating somewhere out there in the Internetz.
On Facebook, you can add an extra layer of privacy by making your profile searchable only to current friends (as explained here) and not allowing friends to automatically tag you in pics or posts. On other sites that may reveal your occasionally unprofessional conduct, refrain from using your full name—or your friends’ full names, for that matter. Google yourself (feels weirdly egocentric, but it’s important) if you’re still wondering how much of your personal info is readily available online. If the first result is a picture of you dancing nearly naked on a tabletop, you should probably give your privacy settings a second glance.
Conversely, you can use social media to bolster your chances of getting hired. If you’re looking for a job in the financial industry, start a blog reflecting your observations on recent economic developments; if you’re an aspiring ad exec, create a Twitter account where you comment on recent ad campaigns. If you’re using these tools in a professional way, you can even tell potential employers to check out your work—it shows passion and initiative. Just remember to stay away from overt political or religious statements, and above all: spelling and grammar count! Social media does not have to be the enemy if used in a smart and strategic manner.