Thanks to the Internet, when you apply for a job you’re no longer just a resume trapped in a stack of piles—with a quick Google search you come to life and employers get to see not only what you look like, but what kind of person you are by a simple glance at your social media profiles.
Is this an acceptable practice?
As of last week, California passed two legislative pieces that make it illegal for employers and potential employers, universities included, to ask for an applicant or employee’s social media login information, in addition to viewing their profiles during the interview process. Though this was just recently passed, it has long been a part of CA’s Penal Code which states that potential employers are allowed to ask for this information, and although the applicant is not required to provide this info, it may cost them the position.
Social media has played a tricky role in today’s application process—both academically and professionally. Many people do a quick search in hopes of finding more about the person they’re considering hiring, making it yet another factor of background investigations, which many argue is sufficient.
Though it depends what specific area of study and industry you plan on going into, your overall cyberspace presence may be what makes or breaks your chances. To air on the safe side, here are some ways that you can improve your social media profiles, especially during your job-hunt process:
Google yourself. It’s the best way to start—you know what’s out there and what shows up when your name is typed into a search engine. Search for your name and your primary email address. Then do combination searches of your name and the school you’ve gone to as different things will show up. Perhaps you’ll be reminded of pre-existing accounts you haven’t used in years….
Adjust your privacy settings. If you have some questionable pictures from your senior year of college on your profile and you’re constantly cursing out the world and you don’t feel like removing all of it, the best thing you can do is change your privacy settings. It’s easy to edit your settings on every site and make it so that only you and your friends can view your profile.
Clean out your cyperspace closet. Though it might take a while, you might highly benefit from doing some deleting and untagging. Do people really need to know how much you hate the MTA or see pictures of you smoking an unidentifiable substance? The answer is no. Protect your reputation and get rid of all that stuff—anything you feel would be awkward to show your parents should probably go.
Change your name. I’ve known many people that change their Facebook names—some do it to be silly, while others do it to be cautious. Choose a last name that you’ve always wanted to have and have it be your name on Facebook so nobody will know that it’s you. It’s a good alternative to deactivating your account which is certainly an alternative option.
Utilize LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the most positive social media outlets and it’s certainly built to benefit you as an applicant. Select a great looking picture of yourself (preferably not one from when you went bar-hopping that one night), upload your resume and connect with people. It looks particularly great if you have recommendations from previous employers and professors so make sure to ask for some. This is the one site that you want employers to see so make it look good.
In this day and age it’s practically impossible to not be present online—it’s an easy way to learn about people that we’re planning on meeting. Therefore, everyone should be conscious of what they’re putting online and make sure that they’re okay with other people seeing it. If that’s not the case then you should get to work and make some changes.