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Employers Use of Social Networks to Screen Job Applicants

February 6, 2012

As most of us come near to the end of our law school career, the next step is to apply for jobs. Most job applicants have a checklist before applying or interviewing that includes updating a resume, preparing cover letters, and seeking a professional outfit. However, a crucial item on the checklist that most students skip is cleaning up the Facebook profile. I know, most of you have heard this many times, so why do I bring it up again? Because students are still not listening!

According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive for, “45 percent of employers questioned are using social networks to screen job candidates—more than double from a year earlier, when a similar survey found that just 22 percent of supervisors were researching potential hires on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.”

The study consisted of questioning “2,667 managers and human resource workers, found that 35 percent of employers decided not to offer a job to a candidate” based on what they revealed on websites like Facebook.  And yes, Facebook was checked more than LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network.

What raises red flags to employers?

• Provocative photos
• Drinking and drug use
• Bad mouthing of previous employers
• Bad mouthing of previous colleagues
• Poor online communication skills

• Discriminatory comments
• Leaking confidential information from previous job(s)

Facebook can also help hire candidates. How?

The career builder survey revealed “Eighteen percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them to hire the candidate.” The top examples listed:

• Profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit
• Profile supported candidate’s professional qualifications
• Candidate was creative 
• Candidate showed solid communication skills
• Candidate was well-rounded
• Other people posted good references about the candidate

These are some of the most obvious tips and red flags.  What about pictures or posts that fall in the gray area? The rule of thumb is, when in doubt, do not post it.  Think, is it important to let the world know “John sucks at his job?” Probably not. A prudent option would be to set your privacy setting to keep questionable content away from the public eye.  “As Facebook continues to grow as an essential personal and business networking tool for most of the Web, these issues are only going to get thornier.” The legal field requires the utmost level of professionalism, and a tidy Facebook page is a start before entering the legal field.