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Social Networking Can Damage Your Job Search if You Let it

Social networking sites are fun and can be a huge asset to your job hunt.  Sites like LinkedIn are designed for professional networking can be a very important part of your job search strategy. In fact, the follow up to this article will outline exactly how helpful sites like LinkedIn can be in a job hunt and how to take full advantage of them. But what about the rest of the social networking stratosphere?  What about sites like MySpace and Facebook to name just two out of the many that are out there.

The positives:

You can keep in touch with friends.  They are places to express yourself and share your creative side.

The Possible Downside:

More and more companies are using social networking sites as part of their interviewing and background checking process and frequently find content on these sites that ultimately change their mind about offering someone a position.

The concept of social networking is great, but since you have little control over who sees your profile – even if you set your profile to private – you still have to be mindful of exactly what you put out for the world to see.

Set Your Privacy Settings to “Friends Only”

For those of you who haven’t taken this step yet – get right on it.  The majority of people leave the setting as public, but if you are in a job search, this is the first precaution to take.

In Facebook, there are many options for how you can limit the information that other people can see, so take advantage of it.  In some cases, if you choose a large network like a major city and you don’t limit your settings, everyone in that network can see your information by default.  On the other hand, you can limit it to just your friends.  You can limit particular information, such as the applications you have added, posts on your wall, or photos in which you have been tagged, to just you so no one else can see it at all.  The many privacy settings can be found in the “Account” link when you log in.

The default setting in MySpace is public.  Go to your homepage and click on Account Settings.  Change the setting to “Friends Only.” If you are saying to yourself, “But I already set my privacy settings so only my friends can see my profile so this isn’t relevant to me.”  Not so fast! An article by Kevin Gray on told a true story of someone who almost lost a job offer because the company he was interviewing with was a state agency and was able to access his “private” profile under the Patriot Act.  That’s why the steps in the rest of this article are also very important in protecting your job search.

Only Invite Your REAL Friends into your Network

The MySpace website itself states that people are not always who they say they are.  While this warning is most significant in the area of child safety on the internet, it is also relevant to your job hunt.  You don’t want to open your profile to people you do not know.

Blocking Users

If you decide to block a user for any reason, just keep in mind that a blocked user can not even view your profile or see you in search results on Facebook, but they CAN still see your profile in MySpace, but they just can’t contact you.  It’s an important difference if you are attempting to block a potential employer.

Limit Personal info During Setup

When you create your MySpace profile, you are able to share a lot of personal information about yourself, such as sexual orientation, relationship status, ethnicity, body type, religion, occupation and income.  Facebook allows you to show your sex, relationship status and birthday.  Be aware that a potential employer can see this information.  The company should be making a decision based on your qualifications and not any of the above. It’s best to keep it out of the job search process so limit what you post.  You can also go back and remove or hide the information as you head into a job search.


“Friend-only Blog Comments”: If you only want people you know to be able to post comments on your blog or profile in MySpace, it’s important that you check this option under Account Settings. 

“Friend Only Group Invites”:
Unfortunately, MySpace groups are being used to post adult content and unsuspecting people are being invited into these groups to increase the group’s membership count.  If you only want to be invited into groups by your friends, check this option.

Other Important Settings

“Approve Comments before Posting”: this function allows you to have control over what other people are posting on your page.  Without it, anyone can write anything they like on your page without you knowing ahead of time. Sometimes friends can write things that they may think are funny, but you wouldn’t necessarily want an employer to view as being endorsed by you. You can reject any comment that you deem inappropriate for what you want out there in your online presence.

“No Pic Forwarding”:
This is a way for you to prevent people from sending links to your pictures to other people who you don’t know in MySpace.   And while you don’t want people who you don’t know to see your pictures, you also have to consider the appropriateness of the photos that you are posting to begin with.  Think about what photos are acceptable to be seen by a potential employer and use that as a guide as to what you post.


Get familiar with phishing scams and how to avoid them.  If you are ever sent an email that looks like it is from your social networking site, make sure it is legitimate before logging in to a fake site.  Your login information can be captured and explicit or unwanted content can be placed on your page.

Post For the Long-term
Sites like MySpace and Facebook are inherently about creativity and self-expression.  But don’t let that fool you.  An employer doesn’t necessarily consider a photo proudly displaying your 10 tattoos something they would be comfortable with, especially if you are being considered for a client-facing position. Don’t post for the “now” – think about your future.  Will you be searching for a job at some point?  Will you be entering a conservative industry?   A picture of you boozing at a frat house may be funny to your friends at age 19, but may hurt your job hunt at a conservative law firm at age 25.

Take these precautions and your job hunt will be stronger because of it.  And remember that while there is a potential down-side to social networking sites during a job search, there is also a huge upside. 

Ron Herzog, CEO and President for FPC (Fortune Personnel Consultants), has spent a number of years developing extensive knowledge of the recruitment industry and successful franchising since joining FPC in January 1995.

Image taken on 2009-09-30 00:00:31. Image Source. (Used with permission)

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