A Word of Warning: Online Social Networking Sites

If you can answer YES to the questions below….BE WISE AND READ FURTHER!!

Have you ever posted or considered posting your personal profile on a social networking site? Do you use blogs or other Internet forums to share your personal information or pictures online with the public?

Although these venues have become a popular means for students to connect with friends and establish new acquaintances, there may be negative consequences to consider. Spotlight Online from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), sends a warning to students who think that the information they post online is only being shared and evaluated by those with similar intentions and interests.

Don’t be fooled by a false sense of security implied by these social networking sites regarding your protection of privacy. In reality you don’t want to post any material that you wouldn’t want to share with the world.

Beyond the more obvious risks, such as being a victim of stalking, violent crimes, and/or identity theft, there is potential to miss out on a much desired job, internship, or graduate school opportunity if employers or admissions officers gain access to damaging information about you. Although “questionable” material posted on the web may have only been meant for friends to see, the fact is that it can be available to anyone with internet access.

According to the NACE article, the impression that people derive from this kind of publicly posted information is relative to the person who is viewing it. “A friend might think what they post is cute or funny. An employer, meanwhile, might think it’s arrogant, immature, unprofessional, or any number of negative things.” If you are in competition for a job or internship with another candidate, information about you that is posted on a site like Facebook could sway the employer and ultimately eliminate you from consideration.

Is it ethical for employers to search for this kind of information about you online and use it when considering or choosing new hires?

That question has become a topic of debate and raises questions related to the intrusiveness, legality, and ethical nature of these practices. Bottom line is that right or wrong, some recruiters and employers have tapped into this information gathering means to learn more about their job applicants. So, be cautious and aware of these pitfalls if you’re considering creating and updating your own online profile.

  • Be sure to use privacy settings that restrict your viewing audience as much as possible, knowing that access to your profile may still be possible even when using these precautions.
  • We strongly urge you to be responsible by creating a presence that projects a positive self-image.
  • If you want to guarantee that no one gains access to information or pictures that could be destructive to your future, members of the Principles for Professional Conduct Committee at NACE recommend that “You shouldn’t broadcast or share any information that you wouldn’t want to share with your parents or spouse, or that you would be ashamed of should it appear on the front page of the newspaper. Follow that and you can’t go wrong.”

Have you used online job boards to search and apply for employment?

 There are a multitude of risks you take in sharing confidential information about yourself online that include putting your personal identity and safety in jeopardy.

In terms of conducting a job search, identity thieves have been known to create false job postings online in order to scam job seekers into giving them their personal information. NACE reports in an edition of Spotlight Online that these perpetrators then pose as human resource professionals, contact job seekers who have responded to their job postings, and request information like social security numbers and bank account information.

We strongly caution students and alumni to never share this kind of personal information online.

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