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To Friend Or Not To Friend

Monday, November 23, 2009

By Brad Karsh, President, JobBound

To friend or not to friend? That is the question when it comes to Facebook, Myspace, and Linkedin in the job search and at work.

Let’s start with a personal story.  Way back in the spring of 2006, we were looking to hire an intern at our company.  As one of the candidates was coming to interview, I went on Facebook to check him out.  As I checked out Jack’s profile he listed his interests as:

“Smokin’ blunts with the homies, “ “Bustin’ caps into whitey” and a few other interests which I’m not at liberty to print on this website.

Now did I think Jack was joking around when he wrote that?  The answer is yes.  I’m quite confident he was not killing people.

But, what did that say about Jack’s professionalism, judgment and maturity?  We walk a very fine line when it comes to what is appropriate online behavior and what could cost us a job.

The Good
The fact is, the social networking sites can be wonderful tools for the workplace.  If you are a new business director and while searching Linkedin you discover that your college buddy is now director of marketing at McDonald’s, I think you just found yourself a new best friend!

If you are in the job market, you would be wise to get online and try to find someone you know at the companies you’re trying to work for.  Don’t forget the networking part of social networking – it’s the best way to land a job.

Connecting with colleagues, future business partners, and potential employers is a great way to use all of the social networking sites.

The Bad
But with anything relating to careers, there’s a right way and wrong way.  Just like you may seek out potential clients or employers online, companies are using social networks to check you out as well.  Are you sure your profile is something a potential employer would find appropriate?

Making the hiring decision is a difficult and incredibly important process.  Going into any job search, an employer wants to be as knowledgeable as possible about a new hire.  Remember they are sinking considerable resources in both time and money into an employee.

As such, employers and hiring managers use as many tools as they can to determine if you are the right person.  They expect you to put your best foot forward on a resume, in an interview, and even in your online profile.  If they see something that looks unprofessional or out of place – in any of the above – it can be a determining factor in getting a job.

The mere fact that you think it’s acceptable to post the picture of you in your Hooters t-shirt, may make an employer doubt your judgment.  

Remember, as I said before, hiring someone is a huge commitment on the part of employers.  They want to do their best to make the right choices.

Pretend you’re a recruiting director and take this quiz.

All other things being equal, who is likely to be a more professional employee?
a.    someone who sends a resume with three typos in it
b.    someone who sends a resume that is perfectly proofread

All other things being equal, who is likely to be a more professional employee?
a.    someone who has a Facebook profile with a picture of them posing with a stripper from their “5 days, 5 states, tons of girls ‘n gin” photo album
b.    someone with a Facebook profile with no inappropriate photos

Of course either candidate could be great, but seriously, who would you hire?  Importantly, if you are the recruiting director, who do you think your boss and/or the CEO would like you to hire?

The Ugly
It’s one thing to do a disservice to yourself, but it’s quite another when you drag your company through the mud.  Once you’re on the job, the situation can get even uglier. 

All of the networking sites have a spot for you to list your company name.  People can then do searches to find out who is out there from that organization.  It goes without saying that you need to keep all of your profiles professional.

Professional doesn’t just mean absent of scandalous pictures.  It also encompasses what you say about your company.  I’ve heard stories of employees getting fired because of disparaging comments about a manager or a company on a blog or social networking site.

Similarly, be mindful of blasting all of your contacts saying that you have a “friend” with the same background as you who is looking for a new job.

For the vast majority of people, sites liked Linkedin and even Facebook can be wonderful resources.  Importantly, these sites are also a reflection of you.  Make sure what a potential business partner sees puts you in a positive light.

Good luck! 

P.S.  Feel free to check me out on LinkedIn and Facebook!

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