In the midst of post-graduation plans, students are becoming more aware of social networking sites and how information on the Internet can affect their job searches.
At least once a year, the Goizueta Business School distributes information and articles “warning students that their online presence lives forever,” according to Associate Dean and Director of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Program Andrea Hershatter.
“How you portray yourself to the outside world is really important to companies,” Hershatter explained.
Britney Fields, associate director of Employer and Alumni Relations in the Career Center, wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel
that employers like to see what kind of a person an applicant is outside of the interview.
She wrote that although not all employers search the Internet during the interview process, there have been instances where recruiters do not seriously consider offers based off of wild photographs or negative and inappropriate posts online.
B-School senior Phil Li said that he has changed privacy settings on his Facebook account prior to interviews and that students at the B-School and in the College are advised to be careful of what they put on the Internet.
“Employers can go through [Facebook], and if they see something negative, they won’t hesitate to cut you off their list,” Li said.
Fields wrote that although privacy helps, there are other ways employers can gain information such as through alumni or other employees that may have access to a student’s network. She added that it is a good idea for students to Google their names to see what kind of information comes up in a search.
Despite privacy setting options, “nothing is private,” according to B-School senior Jordan Silton, who said that what goes online is the individual’s responsibility.
“It’s out there, and it’s not going to come back,” Silton said. “It’s about controlling the information and not putting anything out there in the first place.”
Online information is “retained in cyberspace,” and much more publicly available than many people might assume, according to Hershatter.
B-School sophomore Jimmy Jia, who was recently hired for a summer internship with Procter & Gamble, said that more and more employers are going online and looking for information concerning their applicants.
Jia, whose employers conducted a background check, said that although he did not set his Facebook page to private, it might be a good idea for other students to do so.
“Employers are looking for anything that strikes out as obvious,” he explained. “While most employers at big companies do criminal background checks, this is more broad and will show what you’re aligned with.”
Social networking sites are a way of “building a brand for yourself,” Silton explained.
“You need to keep in mind who you are and what you want to portray to people,” he said.
In addition to be mindful of information online such as profile pictures, Fields wrote that it is not a smart idea to discuss employment options, interviews and interactions with recruiters on social networking sites.
“There is always a story of the student bad-mouthing a company or company rep and completely sabotaging his or her potential offer,” Fields wrote.
Jia said that it is important to use social networking sites wisely.
“One of my friend’s friends updated his status saying that he hated his boss and hated his job. The next day, he was fired,” Jia said.
What’s most important is not just a single photograph or wall post, Hershatter said. Employers are looking for an overall impression of a person, such as what a student’s interests are.
“I don’t think it’s the tattoo or the location of your picture,” she said. “I think the judgment call for that person to allow that picture to become public is what concerns that company. What does that say about this person’s understanding of their professional persona?”
Hershatter added that in addition to being wary of students who appear to be heavy partiers, employers might be concerned about students who appear socially awkward.
Jia said that how far employers can go in looking at an applicant’s personal online profile is a “touchy issue.” Technically, he said, employers should not be allowed to discriminate based off of personal information, but that might not always be the case.
“It’s better to be street smart and know that if they’re capable of seeing that information, it’s best to guard yourself,” he said.
Although some students may be affected negatively by information posted on the Internet, Hershatter said that social networking sites are extremely valuable.
Jia said that connecting with an old acquaintance on Facebook who had previously worked for Procter & Gamble was helpful during his job search.
Professional networking accounts such as LinkedIn or Emory’s E-Connection are more advisable than websites such as Facebook, Fields wrote, adding that they are much more professional and positive opportunities for employers to get to know an applicant.
“Professional networking sites are helpful and really get your name out there,” Jia said. “They’re definitely very advantageous.”
Overall, Hershatter said, it’s “authenticity and consistency” that employers are most concerned about.
“If who you are in private and who you are in public matches who you portray yourself to be in the interview, then you are probably going to be matched with a company where you are comfortable with being yourself,” Hershatter said.
Silton said that although students should be mindful of maintaining an appropriate profile online, it’s important to remain honest about who he or she is.
“There is a way to be presentable,” Silton said, “but you’re not trying to hide who you are.”
— Contact Alice Chen