Checking an applicant’s Facebook profile is becoming a standard part of the hiring process, making it critical for Facebook users to use common sense on how they present themselves on the site.
U.K. business psychology firm OPP recently reported that 56 percent of employers now review the Facebook profiles of job applicants, helping them weed out candidates from pools of resumes.
Meanwhile, another study from researchers at Northern Illinois University, the University of Evansville and Auburn University focused on evaluations of Facebook-using college students with jobs, finding a strong correlation between job performance and ratings of Facebook profiles based on personality traits such as conscientiousness, agreeability and intellectual curiosity.
The findings indicate Facebook users should think of their profiles as extensions of their resumes, careful not to look too good — or too bad — to merit a second look, according to a Time Moneyland column by management consultant Dan Schwabel.
In general terms, tips include organizing Facebook pages so they are agreeable and connected to others, with friendly comments and likes. Facebook users should exhibit emotional stability, avoiding overly emotional posts, and should prove that they’re engaged with their friends and the broader world.
Suggestions include use of Facebook-linked applications that publicly share information about books or articles read, music listened to and places visited, as well as networking apps such as Monster’s BeKnown or BranchOut, which connects Facebook users to each other and to databases with millions of job postings.
Reviewing privacy settings and taking steps to put limits on some posts, or on what the general public sees is a good practice. The new Facebook Timeline allows users to “limit the audience for past posts” only to friends, as well as to approve (or not) posts or tags from friends before they’re posted to the user’s wall.
In addition, there are a growing number of apps available to help users scrub their Facebook profile of unwanted posts or information.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid any potential problems is to not be active on Facebook. But that would be a mistake, according to Schwabel, since these days any and all job-seekers should be on the social network if they want to appear relevant to employers. A Facebook profile that is only half-complete or barely used looks suspicious, as if the user is trying to hide something or is not fully literate in using social media.
Still, the emphasis on a professional Facebook profile only marks the growing importance of social media and online identity, in all aspects of an increasingly public life.