Graduate pressure to have clean Facebook profiles

Bethany Robb
Kathryn Stevenson

Recent research has revealed that using social networking websites could be detrimental to graduate job prospects if ‘inappropriate’ photographs appear on pages, with the infiltration of potential employers to the media realm.

One in five bosses have dismissed an applicant because graduates have displayed drunken photos on their social media profiles. The study, undertaken by AVG Technologies, revealed that such images could reduce the chances of gaining an interview by 70 per cent.

The study also found that 90 per cent of employers search for unprotected social media profiles in order to assess a candidate’s suitability. The limited number of jobs has led employers to find new ways to choose the best candidate, thus leading them increasingly to view candidate social media profiles.

Online activity is becoming a gateway for employers to access information not found in an applicant’s CV. Tony Anscombe, Senior Security Evangelist for AVG Technologies stated that “AVG’s latest research shows that the Internet, and social networks in particular, has changed the way that HR professionals approach the recruitment process.  Nowadays, online content posted about, or by a candidate, has become the modern day equivalent of a first interview.”

UK recruiters are accessing potential candidates using a range of popular social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter proving the most popular at 85% and 47% respectively. Inappropriate photographs, explicit content about alcohol or drugs use or if a candidate has lied about qualifications all ranked as the most common reasons for rejecting a candidate.

Jess McGrellis, VP Student Support for the SRC said: “It’s an unfortunate truth that in today’s competitive job market it is not that surprising that an employer may be put off by a string of inappropriate photos taken after one too many shots, and prefer to employ a candidate who have maximised their privacy settings. Students have been turned down for jobs because of links to material that employers have felt to be offensive, or have unwittingly infringed the Student Code of Conduct by making comments that were deemed to be inappropriate, resulting in sometimes serious consequences. Social networking is a brilliant way of connecting with people and a great asset to student life, that should certainly not be overlooked – just a word of caution to give a think to what your facebook may look like to an outsider or employer. The SRC have recently campaigned to include guidance in course handbooks to help make students aware of the benefits of having privacy settings.”

Further research by AVG Technologies highlighted that many students were naive concerning what their online activity revealed about them. The majority of 18-25 year olds have never reviewed their online profile, which could potentially have a negative impact on their career prospects. Recruiters can verify that young adults are not managing their profiles effectively, with nearly half concluding that this age group are unaware of the need to act responsibly online.

Jamie Wightwick, a member of the Careers Service for the University, offered the following advice for how students should manage their social networking profile. He said: “There are two sides to the impact of social media on employability – depending upon how it’s used, it can be an invaluable networking asset or a serious reputational liability. Keep your personal life personal, and make it a rule to only connect with trusted friends and family members on informal social networks such as Facebook. Use different networks for different purposes and regularly review your privacy settings for each network to ensure you know exactly what you’re sharing with the wider world.

“Finally, don’t overlook the opportunities that social media represents to sell yourself – keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, blog about the industry you want to work in, and do your best to connect with professional contacts in your intended field – a positive social presence can be a huge asset in selling your skills, insight and enthusiasm to prospective employers.”

In some cases social networking can actually be beneficial to a candidate if utilised correctly. Over two thirds of HR professionals have actually been positively influenced by the online presence of a job applicant.