Taking The "Networking" Out Of Social Networking

More and more I'm hearing warnings to be careful about what you put on social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. These warnings are basically all saying the same thing – that employers and recruiters are looking at them and may well turn you down for a job if they don't like what they see. What the hell is wrong with these recruiters that they feel it necessary to pry into your social life in order to see if you are fit to be employed?

Do we have a lot of voyeurs out there in recruiting positions? Do they think that if they see a photo of you drinking lots of beer with lots of fun-loving friends that you won't be able to work for a living? If they are worried about you having too much fun, then they should make you pee in a cup before they hire you.

I've had a profile on Facebook for several years now, and I have seen many profiles, but I have never seen anything that would make me want not want to hire someone. Perhaps that makes me more liberal than most, but I am of the opinion that if someone has a lot of friends, is open and honest about it, and is willing to network openly, then that is a positive sign. Certainly the people who have something to hide have had to make their profiles "private." Now, thanks to our snoopy employers, just about everyone has a private profile. Thanks, corporate America, for sticking your nose where it doesn't belong!

Here are a few of the "helpful tips from the professionals" provided by Keri Yednak in her article, Social Networking Sites Exposed, in the online magazine "Unbound" from the College of New Jersey (Fall 2007).

Tip #1: Adjust settings of your profile to “private,” so that only your friends can view your personal information. Protect your “wholesome” image!

If you are under the age of 18, this might be a good thing. But one of the ideas behind networking is to meet new people. Setting your profile to private effectively eliminates networking. It suggests the possibility that you have something to hide. If you are going to be paranoid about meeting new people you shouldn't even be on a social network, and you should consider wearing a mask when you are out in public.

Tip #2: If possible, do not use your last name anywhere in your profile or webpage. Your parents and/or family might not appreciate the recognition either.

This is another networking killer tip. I have a friend named "Jessica Hoffman" who I recently searched for on Facebook. I found dozens of people by that name. If I had searched for just her first name, I would probably have found thousands of Jessica's. So, removing your last name from a social network means you can forget about friends finding you. The only people who will find you are people who already have a good idea where you are. If you don't want to be found, you shouldn't be networking. Perhaps you should also remove your last name from the telephone directory.

Tip #3: Use E-mail addresses that sound professional. Sexylady@hotmail.com is probably not the best choice when in the midst of a job search.

There is no need to include your email address with your profile. People can contact you through the network without your email address. That is one of its nice features. But "Sexylady" might be good if you are applying for a modeling job or a job at Hooters. Of course if you are a sexy lady and have profile photos to prove it, I would think that it would be a plus in getting hired. At least that's what a number of studies have shown. So evidently recruiters are, consciously or unconsciously, really looking for sexy people.

Here are some tips for recruiters who feel it necessary to spy on the social lives of potential employees.

Tip #1: If the person's profile is private, don't hire him or her, because there is no telling what terrible things are being hidden from you.

Tip #2: If you seek information about someone's social and personal profile as part of your hiring process, then you are suspect for discrimination on the basis of religious, political, or gender preferences –  and that is illegal.

Tip #3: If you are looking on social networks as part of your evaluation of job candidates, then you need to get a life.

Tip #4: If you can't determine whether someone is qualified for a job position without prying into their social lives, then you are not qualified to be hiring anyone.