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Is Facebook Helping--or Hurting--Your Job Search?

With 500 Facebook Friends, 200 LinkedIn connections, and a slew of Twitter followers, you ought to be able to count on social networking to help you land the job you want. Isn't that what friends are for? Even "friends"?

Sort of. A recently-released survey by, a career-information site, asks recruiters and job candidates about their use of social media. And yes, an active online presence should boost your job search--but a minority of companies will absolutely torpedo your candidacy if you're careless in your use of social media. The survey results, conducted this summer, includes responses from 150 companies and 3,500 job candidates.

First, some context:

  • Only seven percent of employers admit to having rejected candidates based on information discovered using social media such as LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter. But one percent of companies aren't shy at all about blackballing you based on your social media activity--they said they disqualify between 11 and 20 percent of candidates based on what they find out about them on social media sites.
  • But a significant percentage--more than a third--say they do look at candidates' social media profiles during recruiting. For a sliver of them--four percent--social media screening is an official part of the recruiting process. So even if company recruiters say they won't reject you outright because of the pictures they found of your tasteless Halloween getup, it's not going to go unnoticed, either. Hardly the best way to make a first impression.
"Recruiters may say they don't look at Facebook, but they do," says Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, a career expert at "If you have digital dirt out there, it's a bad judgment call on your part. Even if you think you've taken all the measures to make sure your profile and photos are private, this is the Internet and nothing is ever 100 percent private."

LinkedIn Gets Top Marks
This is how recruiters are using social media, according to the survey.

  • LinkedIn is by far the most popular social media tool, with 74% of recruiters saying they use it to find candidates.
  • About half of recruiters use LinkedIn to check up on candidates' professional backgrounds
  • Some 21% of recruiters use LinkedIn to research candidates' networks.
  • Candidates like LinkedIn too. As one says, "The lack of photos of people puking or wearing dumb costumes at some Really Great Party helps keep the professionalism up."
  • Facebook is used by about 11% of recruiters to get a handle on candidates' reputation
  • Twitter is a distant third, with only 3% of recruiters saying they use it
Keep the Racy Photos and Posts Private
So how do you make your online profiles appealing to prospective employers? Recruiters recommend that you:
  • Hide at least some personal photos, say 60% of recruiters
  • Get rid of offensive wall posts, even if you didn't write them, say 56% of recruiters
  • Keep your wall private, advise 51% of employers
Employers themselves can offer you plenty of hints about their attitudes toward social media. Some 48% of employers said they had a social media policy in 2010, up from 36% in 2009. Another 27% are in the process of writing one.

Have you used social media to screen candidates? Have your social media postings helped--or hurt--your job hunting? Please let me know!


Photo courtesy of flickr user Spencer E Holtaway
Kimberly Weisul is a freelance editor and writer. You can follow her at
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