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Social networking sites dos and don'ts

  • Story Highlights
  • Survey: Employers check job applicants' profiles on social networking sites
  • Employers want to understand candidates better beyond the resume
  • "Get rid of your digital dirt," expert recommends
  • Update your profile, don't badmouth your boss and watch which groups you join
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By Mike Hargis
CareerBuilder.com vice president of customer care
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CareerBuilder

Editor's note: CNN.com has a business partnership with CareerBuilder.com, which serves as the exclusive provider of job listings and services to CNN.com.

Many hiring managers are actively using social networking sites to seek out the right candidates.

Many hiring managers are actively using social networking sites to seek out the right candidates.

Certain predicted technological revolutions are more myth than reality.

After all, TV phones and laserdiscs were hailed as the wave of the future and yet, despite influencing today's technology, they've gone by the wayside.

Social networking sites might have seemed as if they'd follow the same route, but all signs suggest they're here for the long haul.

Employers are checking job applicants' profiles on sites like Facebook, Brightfuse and LinkedIn, according to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey.

Twenty-two percent of employers say they use social networking sites when evaluating job candidates, and an additional 9 percent intend to do the same soon. Yet, only 16 percent of workers with social networking profiles have modified their pages with potential employers in mind.

What are they looking for?

Employers want to understand the candidates more and look beyond the resume.

"We can also learn a little about the candidate's culture fit and professionalism," says Kelly Vergara, executive director of human resources at digital marketing agency Resource Interactive. "We screen for culture above all else, so this is important."

Thirty-four percent of hiring managers chose not to hire a candidate based on what they found in profiles.

Controversial information, such as information about the candidate drinking or using drugs and inappropriate photographs, were the top reasons for dismissal. But job qualification was still a top priority, as evidence of poor communication skills, negative comments about a former employer and lies about qualification were the next most popular reasons not to hire someone.

Vergara and other hiring managers are also actively using these sites to seek out the right candidates. Of the hiring managers who use social networking sites for candidate research, 24 percent said profiles encouraged them to hire the job seekers. Forty percent of those hiring managers saw proof in the profiles that the employees were a good cultural fit.

"Our talent specialists post open positions on their Facebook [and LinkedIn pages]. Or if there is an upcoming career event, they will post on their profiles if they'll be there, and often individuals will reach out to meet in person."

If you want to use your profile to get hired or to at least keep your options open for a future job search, here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind:

Do update your profile regularly

"Keep your profile updated, even when you're not looking for a job," recommends Patrice-Anne Rutledge, author of "The Truth About Profiting from Social Networking." "Recruiters love to find top-notch passive job candidates and having a current profile can help you land your dream job when you least expect it."

Don't badmouth your current or previous employer

You know that griping about your current boss is a grave error during an interview, and it's just as detrimental on your profile. Give hiring managers the idea that eventually you'll be tarnishing their image if you part ways with the company and you'll be crossed of their lists of candidates.

Also, if you're currently employed, don't forget any confidentiality and conduct agreements you've signed, Vergara reminds. You don't want to violate your contract and end up jobless while you hunt for a new position.

Do join groups...selectively

One of the fun elements of networking sites is that you can connect with other people who share your same interests and have your quirky sense of humor. Thus you end up with virtual groups like "I Drink More Beer than Water."

The silly group might seem harmless enough to you, but for a hiring manager trying to find a mature candidate for an open position, it doesn't leave a great impression.

"No one is going to hire the consultant doing the keg stand or the lawyer that belongs to the anarchist forum," says Patricia Sanchez-Abril, an expert on privacy and networking sites and professor of business law at the University of Miami. Instead opt for groups that show your professional aspirations or social involvement, such as an organization for advertising professionals or the charity you volunteer at.

Don't mention your job search if you're still employed

If your boss knows you're on the lookout for a new job, then by all means let it be known. However, if you're attempting to keep your search below the radar, Vergara recommends restraint. Even if your boss isn't your online friend, somebody can get the information back to him or her.

Do go on the offensive

If you want to use your networking profile as a tool, review the pictures you've uploaded, the personal information you've disclosed and any personal blogs or sites you've linked to. Don't wait until you're interviewing to go back and clean up your profile because the hiring manager probably already had a look.

"Get rid of your digital dirt," says Rutledge. "A large percentage of recruiters 'Google' potential candidates to see what they can find out about them -- both the good and the bad. Be sure that you don't have any information on social networks or other sites that could make a recruiter decide to pass on you as a job candidate."

Don't forget others can see your friends

Unless you've opted to keep your friends list private, your friends can see the contacts you've made. So in addition to keeping your friends' risque pictures and comments off of your profile, be cautious about whom you friend and when.

"Connecting to five people at Company XYZ after a day of vacation is a sure sign you are interviewing," Vergara cautions.

Ultimately you need to remember that social networking profiles can mean potential bosses are evaluating you before you even apply for the job. You'd make sure to wear your best clothes to an interview, so polish your profile with the same care.

Copyright CareerBuilder.com 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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