When you apply for a job, one of the first things that employers will do is take a look at your resume. Traditionally, this along with a face to face interviews were the steps to getting a job. With the ability to now get information within seconds, traditional steps to getting a job are being substituted by other methods. What it says on paper is no longer enough information for employers. With information becoming easier to gather, employers want to get as much information as they can on possible candidates. Using sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, employers can now find out when you first started a job, who you know, as well as other information you may not want them to know like where you went last night or that ‘one crazy night’ during college.
Mind If I Stalk You?
Launched in early 2004, Facebook is now the 3rd most visited website according to Compete.com and has not only helped users reconnect with old friends and make new ones, but sparked a new culture that can be described as “social voyeurism.” Another word that I have heard used to describe it is “social network stalking.” While many argue that it is unfair for employers to use your Facebook account as basis for being qualified for a job, what people need to realize is that whatever you put online becomes part of the world wide web. Privacy is a myth. No matter how much privacy you put on your Facebook account, there are ways for employers to get that information. From companies having current employees already in your network to ‘dummy’ accounts that friend potential candidates, for one to believe their Facebook accounts are private is wrong.
Social media stalking by companies is just the tip of the iceberg though. To better understand, it is best to look at the Facebook update feed. For anyone that believes they are not ‘stalking’ on Facebook, I reply that you actually might be. Users that update their status typically do so because they have a value based comment that they want to share with their friends. What those users don’t realize, is that they are sharing it with people they may not even know that well. A question that everyone should ask themselves is: Do you really interact with every person on your friends list? Probably not. Just taking a look at my update feed, someone who I haven’t talked to in nearly 4 years just wrote “Drunk Dialing is fun.” There really is no reason for me to keep this person on my friends list, but I do because of the same reason that millions of others do: they want to know what others are up too. Most likely, this person will stay on my friends list till I no longer use Facebook and I will probably not even message/chat with them once. Still, I will know exactly what they are up to all thanks to Facebook.
Quantity Over Quality
As I mentioned earlier, Twitter is also one tool that has begun to become part of the ‘social voyeurism’ culture. While stalking on Twitter may not be as prevalent as on Facebook, this can be explained in part due to the ease in using Twitter as a professional networking tool. I would love to say that I know each and every one of the people following my updates, but I would also love to say that I will win the lottery tomorrow. Both are just the product of wishful thinking. Still, although complete strangers are able to follow your updates, their is a growing trend where Twitter users are aiming for quantity rather than quality when it comes to Twitter followers. In a culture where the number of people you know is seen as a big plus, the same goes for Twitter. Although you may not know all the people following you, to an extent it is a reflection of your influence in your social network. While Facebook has the potential to do more bad than good for someone applying for a job, Twitter is the opposite. Twitter’s use as a networking tool for your career can be a huge leveraging tool in your favor.
What Can You Do?
With companies and ‘stalkers’ using Facebook and Twitter to learn more about you, there are some important things that you can do to protect your profiles. Something that I have suggested to professionals is that when creating a Facebook or Twitter account, it is important to first decide for what purpose their account will be: personal or professional. If you are going to dedicate your account for your career, then its content should reflect it. Photos of you at a friends bachelor party is an example of what should not be in your professional profile. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t want your mom to see it, then don’t put it online. If you do decide that you want to create an account for personal use, then you should make sure you protect your content by setting the appropriate privacy settings. It is important to remember though, that no matter how much privacy you set your accounts at, as mentioned before, privacy is a myth. Their will always be ways around the walls you have set in place. Just like how the Great Wall of China is slowly crumbling, so will the walls of privacy.
Photo by Ansy