It’s one of the largest social media platforms – Facebook.
At the end of July, Facebook had 1.49 billion monthly active users. That’s more than 20% of the global population, or more than 4.5 times the US population. Out of those billions of active users, there are plenty that are making HUGE mistakes when it comes to their personal profiles. As a student who hit the job market (and landed a totally awesome job) about a year ago, I realize that Facebook profiles are VERY important in the job search. Making some of these common mistakes could make or break your career!
Coupling I see these all of the time. Cutesy couples – one loves social media, the other could care less – have decided to make a combined profile. It’s wonderful that you are a couple. I’m happy for you – really, I am! But this mistake is a major one. Unless someone really knows you personally, all those friends on your Facebook page have no clue who’s really doing the postings. What happens when a future employer finds your page that your spouse has posted their strong opinions to in your name?
Faking It In all reality, using a fake name is illegal. Don’t believe me? In 2010, a Rhode Island prison guard was arrested for using a fake name on his social media profile! Not only is this illegal, it does nothing for you. Any good computer hunter will uncover your secret in no time, so it isn’t very secret. Even if your background check doesn’t include an extensive social media search (yes, some now do), your friends could still brag about last night’s exploits using your name in the post and then tagging your alternate profile. When someone tries to search your name, this post may appear, giving away your profile.
Doubling Up When you use a social media platform, just make one profile. There are people who make a “professional” profile that is public, then a “fun” profile that is private. Heads up, the “private” one is not as private as you may think – even if you use a fake name (see above). The array of profiles can become confusing to friends and to background searches. It makes you look like there is something to hide. Not only that, but it can be very hard to maintain two profiles properly. In the end, you’ll neglect one or mess up somewhere to give yourself away.
Party Pics Or any pictures that could lead to embarrassment or potential danger. This includes drunk pictures, pictures of you in a swimsuit, video of you doing illegal activities, any of that. These pictures can go wrong on so many levels. Stalkers can find photos of you hanging out at the local pool in a bikini and can find you easier. Cops can easily figure out that it was you and your friend who started that fire. Most importantly – employers and coworkers can see how responsible you really are and if you were really sick or just hung over. When you’re doing this, you also need to make sure you set your tagging filters to approve everything. Just because you’re responsible and watch what you post doesn’t mean your friends are. Make sure you have filters to approve what is posted before it starts showing up on your timeline.
Weird Work You can put any job in the world in that workplace box. ANYTHING. Fruit Ninja Expert, Love Life Guru, Rocket Scientist, you name it. Now that you have that MBA, though, that Wall Street management position may not find that as humorous as your best buds. Remember, only put on your profile what you want others (including future employers) to see.
No Pictures You don’t have to be in your profile picture (though it is preferred), but you do need to be somewhere on your profile. There are innumerous “Amy Smith’s” and “James Brown’s” out there. How do I know the one trying to add me is you? By looking AT you! Make a few pictures more public (such as previous profile images) that contain you. If I don’t see a face I know, I don’t add – that simple.
No Updates Yes, we forget in the move to change our town, or we don’t want to get too excited about quitting that old job, but updating your profile could make or break you in hiring. In a social media search, you may be red flagged if you say you live in Boston, but you’re applying for a job (and your resume uses an address) in Tampa. When you do this, it may show future employers that your heart is still set far away, and that this job may be temporary in your mind. If they want someone more permanent, they may place your resume at the end of the pile. The same goes for job hunting. Three jobs ago you were the accountant and bookkeeper at a small, local business. Since then, you’ve been a factory manager and an assistant manager at a bed and breakfast. When you apply for that hotel GM position you’ve been eyeing and studying for, your profile will look like it’s screaming “I want to be back in accounting!” You weren’t proud enough to even put the job in your industry on there. Will you just be passing through until there’s a great accounting position open?
Some of these seem minimal, but when an employer is weeding through dozens of qualified applicants for that position, these little things can make a huge difference. What seems like nothing to you and your friends can put up red flags to potential employers. As you get ready to hit the job market after school, it may be a good time to look back at your profile and see what potential employers might be seeing. Is it what you want them to think of you? Will this get you your dream job? Would YOU hire yourself for that position?
Nicole Firebaugh | @nicole_fir