FLAMES OF THE TORCH: Professionalism on Facebook

In February of 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched the social networking site Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. At first, the site was limited solely to Harvard students.

It quickly grew into a site for the entire Boston area college scene and other Ivy League schools like Stanford. Finally, within the first year it was open to every
college student in the nation.

Zuckerberg was an undergraduate sophomore when he first starting writing code for the site and since then has seen his online networking creation evolve into a cultural phenomenon that a staggering 85 percent of American college students now use,
according to TechCrunch.com.

But while Facebook has changed the way college students communicate and define their social networks, it has also contributed largely to the debate over online privacy. The question that sites like Facebook create is exactly how private can users’ photos, friends and information really be? The reality is, nothing put online is
really fully private.

Last month, in coinciding with national Data Privacy Day on Jan. 28, Microsoft released a special report detailing the effect that sites such as Facebook can have on getting jobs. Unfortunately for many college users, an article in InformationWeek by Thomas Claburn reports that it’s “indiscreet publication of information online” that can be the nail in the coffin for job applicants.

Claburn reports the specifics of Microsoft’s research, including the unsettling statistic that 70 percent of human resource workers surveyed admitted to rejecting a job applicant based on “information found through an online search.” Conversely, only 7 percent of U.S. consumers who were surveyed felt that online data had any weight in being hired. This creates a rather unfortunate dichotomy between
truth and misconception.

One possible explanation for the huge disparity in numbers that InformationWeek points out is 75 percent of job recruiters in the U.S. are required by their companies to perform an online search of job applicants’ online information. For many young Facebook users, this could be motivation enough to delete their accounts all together.

Though Microsoft’s research may be shocking at first, it makes practical sense. Often times a person’s Facebook is a more genuine account of what that person is really like.

A resume and cover letter may paint a
pleasant picture of the job applicant and their best qualities, but that’s exactly what these things are supposed to do.

No one’s resume reveals information about their friends, musical taste or delivers snapshots of what they choose to do in their spare time. To an employer who knows nothing about a person except the resume they’ve provided, a quick Facebook search could fill in lots of missing pieces.

While many students may feel safe and secure posting personal information to the Web, it’s important to understand the visibility of their online action. The Web is fully transparent and accessible, and with almost 90 percent of American students using Facebook, it should be assumed that companies are researching who they’re
dealing with before they make a hire.

But students shouldn’t necessarily be scared away from social networking. Using common sense and good judgment when setting up a Facebook account will protect users from casting a non-professional image of themselves. With some tactfulness and attention paid to the image published to the public, students can use their Facebooks to communicate, socialize and network without hurting their chances of securing a job.