Social Networking Decisions Affect Hiring Process

By Zack Anderson

New Facebook profile can influence potential employers


Facebook Timeline can be both a help and a hindrance to students looking for employment.

Career Services office manager Lindsay Beals, who manages the office’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, said some employers use social media such as Facebook to check on potential employees. Some use them for networking before they have found an applicant and others for background checks on people who have applied.

Beals said it’s difficult to know how the new Facebook Timeline affects how employers use Facebook in researching applicants, but she said the new profile format can have positive and negative effects, depending on how students use it.

“You have to be very careful of what you post,” Beals said, “but it could also be very beneficial to you as well and help you market yourself in a creative way.”

Timeline, Facebook’s new format for user profiles, takes everything a user has done on Facebook and organizes it chronologically. Users can browse through their history by year and month and even add life events to their profile that happened before they joined Facebook.

One of the most visually noticeable aspects of Timeline, and one Beals said students should consider, is the cover photo. The cover photo is a user-chosen, profile-wide banner at the top of the profile. Beals said it could influence a potential employer’s impression of a student.

“It’s the first thing you see, and so I think it can communicate so much about you as a person, your interests, your values,” she said.

Laura Lintz, assistant director of Career Services, said students should make the cover photo something they love, such as family. She mentioned the possibility of graphic design students creating their own design for the cover photo. The cover photo should open “a little bit of window into who you are as a person,” she said.

Like the previous Facebook profile format, Facebook Timeline can also show potential employers a user’s education and work experience, but it also tells more than that. Gerrit Hall, co-founder of RezScore, a website that grades resumes, said Timeline is effectively a life resume.

“From the giant cover image at the top to the chronological organization down the line, your Facebook profile is a resume for your life, not just your career,” Hall said in an article on the social media and technology website

Lintz said information about a student’s community involvement on Facebook Timeline can supplement the type of professional resume information on a social media outlet like LinkedIn.

“I think a lot of our students are active in the community, active in missions trips, actively serving within their churches,” Lintz said. “So if they were choosing wisely, they may choose to post information about those opportunities and those photos versus their latest weekend party.”

Beals said how much Facebook Timeline can function as a traditional resume depends on if a student keeps their Facebook for social or professional uses.

However, students shouldn’t be concerned if their Facebook is primarily for social use. Everyone knows Facebook is primarily for social communication, Beals said. If a student were using the more professional social network LinkedIn for social uses, Beals said that might give companies a bad impression.

Lintz said companies actually like to see a potential employee’s social life on Facebook. They want to find out if a potential employee likes to cause problems or drama.

“They love to see your circle of friends, see how you’re interacting and communicating,” she said.

Some Cedarville seniors have thought about how potential employers might look at their Facebook. Senior Larry Sanders, who has applied to several government jobs, said he made his Facebook more mature. He took off some of his contact information because he wants the government to know he cares about keeping that information safe.

The information Sanders left has to do with his personal interests, like his favorites movies. He said this was information that typically wouldn’t be talked about in an interview.

Senior Samantha Cazzell remembers not to post anything inappropriate. Though she is not job searching, she has applied to a lot of graduate schools and said that a lot of them are very competitive, saying she thinks they look at applicants’ Facebooks.

Cazzell had a word of advice for her fellow seniors: “Be careful with posting pictures.” She thinks a lot of people post pictures that are not necessarily appropriate.

Lintz agrees that what pictures people post are important. She said employers might not be able to view all of an applicant’s profile, but the pictures speak volumes.

Some Cedarville students, such as senior Beth Myatt, don’t think there is anything they need to do to make their Facebook profiles more appealing to potential employers.

“I don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” Myatt said.

Beals has some advice for students who don’t want to have to be ashamed of anything they put on Facebook.

“I think for a lot of students, it’s easy to use Facebook as a personal diary,” she said, “and it’s probably time, especially with the Timeline tool, to put that habit to rest.”

Read Cedars .PDF