When your child is sending a tweet or posting a picture to Instagram, she’s probably not thinking about how this will affect her day tomorrow, let alone her chances of getting a job after college. But the truth is, what she puts out into cyberspace can be very hard to erase.
Photos on a MySpace page cost her a job
Laura, mother of one from Arizona, watched her 19-year-old daughter lose a great job opportunity because of pictures she posted on her MySpace page. Laura has asked that we only use her first name because revealing her true identity or that of her daughter will only drudge up the very thing they are so desperately trying to put behind them — their daughter’s online image.
Laura’s daughter was fired before she was hired when she hand-delivered her resume to a prospective employer and was informed that that the job was no longer available to her because of pictures he’d seen on her MySpace page. Apparently, she’d inadvertently emailed him the link which was included in her email signature.
Upon visiting the page, the potential employer found photos of Laura’s daughter drinking beer from a bong. Others showed her flashing peace signs with friends, their faces squished close to the camera. And a roadside shot of her apparently answering the call of nature were all enough for the prospective employer to tell her thanks, but no thanks. No interview was needed.
Understand social media profiling
Rachel Musnicki, a representative for TrueCare.com, a social media monitoring company, says, “Many companies use social media profiling to screen potential employees. Looking at social media can give employers an insight into a potential employee’s personality, character or work ethic.”
A survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that nearly 27 percent of employers are checking Google and social networking sites to review job candidates. Of the companies that did not conduct online checks, about 35 percent said they might do so in the future.
And while it may shock you that your child’s social media accounts can potentially hurt his job prospects, if his profile isn’t marked private it will be accessible to a potential employer. Andrew Schrage, founder of Moneycrashers.com adds, “It’s a controversial topic to say the least. Employers can open themselves up to potential discrimination lawsuits if it’s found that they used ‘protected class information’ in their hiring decisions.”
Scrutinize your child’s social media sites
Before this all happened, Laura had seen the pictures that ultimately cost her daughter the job but says, “It really wasn’t anything out of the ordinary from other teens and, somewhat tame in comparison to most others.” But she now understands that potential employers will be far more critical.
Knowing now what she didn’t know then, Laura has several tips to pass on to other moms so their children don’t make the same mistake her daughter did. “Keep only one social media profile where you post personal stuff. Keep your main profile photos and cover photos generic or conservative,” says Laura. She also urges moms and teens to consider the following:
- If you don’t know every single person on your page, if it’s questionable at all, don’t post it.
- Do not allow a company to bully you into giving them the password; I hear that happens.
- Do not like comments on public posts (friends that have public profiles or pages that are public — look for the little symbol of a globe that means it’s public) that may be offensive or not conservative — these show up in Google searches and are public so the world can see.
- Consider a second page to represent the image you want to portray. Make it a public page — keep your private page for close friends and family only. If you do have one page, don’t accept friend requests from those you don’t know or put them on a “restricted” list. Remember that privacy filters on social networking sites are not fail-safe.
If you get involved in your child’s social media presence now, you can save her from making mistakes that are hard to take back. All experts seem to be in agreement that the best advice is to keep that profile private. “If a user’s profile is not protected, their content can be found through search engines like Google. This is true for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” says Musnicki.
Laura’s daughter’s story made the news which only complicated her situation. “It was the first thing that came up if you Googled her name. It really discouraged her, being a young adult trying to start out on her own. It really made her seem like a ’bad’ person and affected her self-esteem and trust of others.”
Clean up his social media sites
The good news is, you can help your teen clean up his social media sites before he gets ready to apply for jobs or even to college as recruiters have been known to engage in social media profiling as well. “One idea is to simply go through each social media profile and delete any inappropriate photos or comments. Another method is to use a software product called SimpleWash, which scans your Facebook profile for any inappropriate content that can speed up the process, although it doesn’t apply to photos,” says Schrage.
Schrage adds, “The only time it’s suggested that you actually delete a social media account is when it’s so filled with inappropriate content, photos and other materials that it would simply make sense to start over with a new account.”
Laura says she’s in the process of trying to rebrand her daughter online. “I occasionally Google her and it’s still horrible.”
Social media sites do more good than bad
So when it comes to your child looking for a job is it better for him to not have any social media profiles? Most experts say no. “A social media profile that’s handled well can be a lot more beneficial than none at all,” says Musnicki. “If you use social media effectively, you can connect with people in the industry you’re trying to break into. Engaging with other professionals can show you’re serious and knowledgeable about the industry. Social media profiles can also give employers a valuable glimpse into your personality which they might not get from a resume or cover letter,” adds Musnicki.