More and more colleges and employers are claiming that they look up a person online prior to hiring or admitting him or her into a job or program. I suppose it’s understandable—I have done it myself with potential babysitters, which is probably why I don’t have a babysitter!—but is it really fair?
I would say no. Even if you have some teenager trying to look cool—or an aging adult attempting to do the same!—posting a bunch of silly things online about partying or whatever, you have to know that much of it is false. People are constantly buffing up their online presences—I only wish they’d be smarter about it. We lived for thousands of years without social networking, and people who were hired for jobs could have been murderers for all anyone knew. I don’t think an employer should have a right to snoop in your social networks (if they’re private) or into your credit, either.
If you want to ensure that what you share online doesn’t keep you from a job or a college you have your eye on, here are a few simple tips.
- Set everything to private or for friends-only. This is not foolproof; friends can share whatever you post, and with Facebook’s ever-changing privacy policies, you never know what will be made public suddenly. Still, this is a good, simple tip to use to ensure that people don’t see your information if you don’t want them to. And for goodness sake, don’t friend people you aren’t really friends with who will carelessly share your information, either.
- Never post anything that puts you in a negative light that can be seen by lots of people. Keep a blog? If you rant a lot or detail stealing from a 7-Eleven or underage drinking, set the blog to private or to friends-only and let only people you give permission to see your blog. Even so, keep in mind that they, too, can share or print your blog—so you might as well keep a paper journal instead if you’re going to share very intimate details!
- Use an alias. I have friends whose employers connect with them on Facebook who do this. It should NOT have to be this way, but since it is, an alias can let you share whatever you want—aside from photos!—and keep you protected from prying eyes.