Risky social media usage may hurt students in job search

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For college students, social media can serve as a way to connect with friends at school and back home, but as the time to apply for internships and jobs quickly approaches, students also have to think about how their posts and pictures affect their hiring potential.

The dangers of discovery on social media might seem obvious to some people: pictures of alcohol and drugs are a big “no-no.” However, employers may find distasteful elements in some posts that are generally inoffensive.

“Students should understand that just because they are not ‘tagged’ in pictures or posts, that if their name appears on someone’s social media page, it can be easily found through a Google search,” Candice Sierzega, assistant director of Career Development said.

Jeremy Littau, a professor of journalism and communications, said he believes that using a lot of slang words and inside jokes that no one understands potentially hinders a secure employment. Even worse are curse words or inappropriate language. Littau, who is consistently present on social media, very often sees inappropriate or insensitive posts that gets the person into trouble.

“If you’re thinking of using your social media as a visual representation of yourself, then being professional is always a good idea,” Littau said.

One of the most risky forms of social media is coincidently one that many people are beginning to favor, said Sierzega. Ephemeral tools, such as Snapchat, allow the content to disappear after a certain amount of time, and many students believe that this form of sharing is the safest.

“Snapchat and screenshots make it easy for people to share information that we would like to remain private,” Sierzega said.

However, instead of being afraid of social media, Littau believes that students should begin to consider its positive benefits.

“I think we need to, at least at the educational level, change the conversation about social media and not always talk negatively about it,” he said.

Dean Kroker, ’16, said he understands that his future employers might be looking into his social media when possibly choosing him for a job.

“I have considered what my social impact has on employers, not just on social media, but through Google searches of my name and through my professional sites,” he said.

Kroker also said that a lack of posts could also influence one’s chance of receiving a job offer, especially when pursuing a creative and business-oriented job. Sometimes, posting more could be beneficial if the posts are contextual.

Littau says that social media, if used correctly, could be an additional resume. By posting things such as articles, websites and blogs that have to do with the position that is being pursued, an employer will see that he or she is really committed to the industry.

“I always tell my students that social media is a great visual, scannable resume for yourself,” Littau said. “Not about what you have done, but what you think about.”

Sierzega turned to statistics to prove the usefulness of social media, saying that 93 percent of job recruiters utilize or plan to use social media as a recruiting tool. In 2014, 55 percent of recruiters have recognized or rejected a candidate based on their social profile.

However, even if one’s social media profile is already tainted with inappropriate posts or pictures, it is possible to clean up the profile and make it more presentable.

First, one should Google himself or herself to see the profile through the employer’s eyes and see what should be taken down immediately. Sierzega also advises looking through photos and deleting the inappropriate ones, thinking before tweeting or posting to Facebook and setting profiles to private.

However, setting a profile to private may not always inhibit an employer from seeing what is on the site.

“We are seeing more companies requiring candidates to turn over their social media passwords before they get hired for a job,” Littau said. “It’s controversial. I would never work for a company that did that to me, just as a matter of principle. But in the current climate, they have a right to ask for it.”

For this reason, Littau suggests that by scrubbing all of the content of one’s profile and still keeping his or her followers, the account can then be more professional but the number of followers will not be lost.

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