I'd like to preface this blog post by saying that cleaning up your Facebook profile won't be the sole reason you land a desirable job. It sure won't hurt your chances, though.
Nearly two in five companies (37%) are using social networking sites to research job candidates, according to a recent study by CareerBuilder.
If you apply for a job, there is a chance that your social media profile could either make or break your chances of securing the position. The most popular spot for employers to social screen, according to the study: Facebook.
Students in online degree programs should recognize the power of Facebook when searching for career opportunities.
Facebook is a necessary evil for job seekers. On the one hand, it's the most powerful network (more than 900 million daily users) for personal networking, but it can be used for professional networking as well (with Facebook apps such as BranchOut and BeKnown). On the other hand, posting an offensive status update or commenting on someone else's wall using derogatory language could result in a potential employer instantly dismissing you from an open position.
My suggestion is for job seekers to treat their Facebook profile as if an employer is looking at every post. If you have a question on whether a post is suitable for your Facebook timeline, think about whether a potential employer would have an issue with the content.
To increase your chances of landing that coveted job in a desirable industry after completing your online degree, here is some social media advice: five ways to clean up your Facebook profile.
1. Control photos/wall posts on your timeline.
Of course, you have no control over what your friends post on your timeline. Unfortunately, these photos and wall posts (if inappropriate) could have a negative impact on the potential employer's perception of you. There's a way around this. If you recently had a heck of a time enjoying the nightlife in your favorite city and don't want potential employers to see the photos in which you're tagged, alter your settings to control what appears on your timeline.
Once you're logged in to Facebook and are on the homepage, navigate to the drop-down menu in the top-right corner and select "Privacy Settings." Then, under the "Timeline and Tagging" section, click "Edit Settings." The third option will ask if you want to "review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline." Select "yes" and you're done.
This enables you to approve (or deny) what photo/comment tags that include your name appear on your timeline.
2. Eliminate rants and cursing.
The CareerBuilder study said the No. 1 reason employers checked out applicants' social media profiles was to see whether they carried themselves in a professional manner online. Keep this in mind and refrain from ranting and/or cursing on status updates and comments.
For what it's worth, I'm not recommending job seekers go overboard and become boring online. Facebook focuses on what's interesting. Don't stray from that. It's very possible to combine intrigue with keeping it clean on Facebook.
3. Avoid political rants relating to the impending presidential election.
Don't get me wrong on this one. Voting is a distinct privilege in our country. It's honorable to vote, particularly with the presidential election coming up on Nov. 6. Wear your "I voted" stickers with pride. Just leave the politically-slanted rants off your Facebook timeline. You never know how a potential employer might perceive such a tirade.
4. Go through your personal "Likes" and old photos.
When Facebook switched to the timeline format a few months ago, it migrated some of the old sections (such as music, books, television, movies and interests) into one overall section called "Likes." From your personal profile page, navigate to the section underneath your cover photo that says "Likes." Go through these interests and make sure nothing vulgar appears.
I wouldn't worry too much about "Liking" TV shows or movies, for instance, that are not suitable for kids. For example, my first two TV shows listed are The Wire and Dexter, and I'm pretty sure that hasn't negatively affected me on any job interview.
If you haven't noticed, Facebook also transferred all of your tagged photos to your timeline after the design change. Click on the photos tab and remove tags of any photos that may be inappropriate.
5. Be strict with check-ins.
Checking in on Facebook at family functions, sports events, restaurants, etc. will look perfectly fine to potential employers. On the other hand, checking in repeatedly at bars/night clubs (especially during the week) may give the potential employer the wrong impression. Be alert to your check-ins and don't bother with the ones that could paint a negative picture of you.
Facebook is the most popular social network for maintaining and developing personal relationships. There's nothing wrong with interacting every day on Facebook. For the best results when it comes to job interviews, just make sure you use sound judgment and keep it clean.
About the author: Eric Sorrentino joined Grantham University as Social Media Manager in October 2011. Prior to that, he blogged about Big 12 Conference athletics for KUsports.com and was a sports copy editor for the Lawrence Journal-World. Eric received his bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas.