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Too much information online

Q: I have a daughter who is a high school senior. Her guidance counselor often posts your column on the bulletin board outside of his office door to encourage “good choices.”

My question is that I have heard that employment professionals often check a candidate’s Facebook page before making a hiring decision. Is this true? It seems odd to go to this extreme. However, here is my concern. I am not a big Facebook person. I joined to check on my daughter’s profile and comments. Sometimes her information does border on being inappropriate. For example, photos of her and friends sunbathing. In some photos, she is fully dressed but showing too much skin. There are a few inappropriate comments too. Of course, there are some photos which are harmless, like the photo of our dog or a snowman built last winter. Some comments are fine too.

Also, do colleges check these pages?

A: You are smart to check your daughter’s online profile. Although Facebook is a wonderful social media tool for connecting with others, it can have a darker side. First, beyond the job hunt, your daughter may be communicating information to online predators unknowingly. Talk with your daughter about what she discloses on Facebook. Less is often better.

Employers are increasingly checking online profiles, including Facebook. It is easy to do since accessing a Facebook profile takes seconds. It is important that your daughter’s privacy controls are in place. Employers are trying to gather all the information available on a candidate. If a candidate has several pictures of themselves at parties, drinking beer, etc., then a hiring representative might reconsider extending an offer to this candidate. Any hire is a risk and companies want to mitigate risks. According to Mike Astringer, Founder of Human Capital Consultants, “If a potential employer finds inappropriate material on a social media site chances are good they will use that information in a hiring decision.” A growing number of college admissions officers admit to checking applicants’ Facebook pages. Many feel since it is public domain, it is another piece of information available to them. It is a smart idea for students (and others!) to critically look at their Facebook pages and remove anything that is racier than PG-13. The main profile photo should be positive and professional. A high school graduation photo would be a good choice for your daughter.

In addition to removing salacious photos, all of us need to be aware that the negative comments could have repercussions (especially regarding a college or a prospective employer). Many of us are connecting with colleges and companies. Colleges and employers are able to read these comments and posts.

PS – I hope your daughter’s guidance counselor posts this column outside of his office door!

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