Employers Say Social Media Over-Exposure Can Kill Job Prospects

CEO Gabriel Shaoolian featured in St Louis Post-Dispatch


Friday, July 16, 2010

The economists and pundits don't always get it right.

But this time they did:

The forecasts that the Class of '10 would encounter one of the worst job markets in history for college graduates were, unfortunately, right on the mark. Let's look at the numbers.

The unemployment rate for the general population, 9.5 percent, jumps to nearly 15 percent when young people ages 20-24 are separated from the composite figures.

Timing is everything and, because of economic cycles, their birthdays and other factors beyond their control, the timing of this year's graduating class couldn't have been more abysmal.

There is some evidence, though, that a fraction of Generation Next's job woes may be of their own doing.

Call it the unintended consequence of coming of age in the era of My Space, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and other social media.

That photo posted on Facebook? The one showing a young man with a beer bong in hand, a lampshade on the head and a naked backside turned to the camera?

Well, recruiters and executives say, that picture could well come back to bite the young man in the exposed anatomical extremity during his transition from carefree college student to serious job candidate.

"Other people can see your friends, your wall, your blog," cautions Allison Nawoj, a career advisor with CareerBuilder.

To put it in terms that Facebook, Twitter and text junkies can understand, this is the outcome job candidates can expect when the stranger taking measure of a questionable social media posting holds sway over hiring decisions.

TMI + OMG = :-(

In a 2009 survey on the subject, CareerBuilder found that 45 percent of employers now include a review of social networking sites in the job screening process -- a 23 percent increase over 2008.

But here's the percentage that social media aficionados young and old need to keep in mind before pushing the enter key on a drunken rant about a shattered love affair:

Thirty-five percent of the respondents acknowledged they had torpedoed a job applicant because of negative information uncovered online.

Tim Mulligan, a St. Louis area real estate and business management consultant, tells how he narrowed an urgent search for a property manager to five strong candidates, most notably a college graduate with more than five years' experience in the field.

Taking a step that has "greatly simplified the process of weeding" the good applicants from the bad, Mulligan Googled the five finalists.

It didn't take long for him to learn that the college graduate, "very much an extrovert," had a penchant for sharing pictures depicting her dancing in little or no clothing.

"Such was that (Mulligan) needed a talented manager who also had a bit more discretion," the position went to someone else. Job hopefuls are not alone in being vulnerable because of Internet excess.

Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and CEO of Blue Fountain Media, a New York website development and marketing firm, says "online reputation management" has also become a major tool in business decisions.

He recalls the executive of a large financial company that contacted Blue Fountain seeking a marketing and financial partnership.

A quick review of the would-be client's Facebook page revealed that the executive was a regular passenger on flights to and from Las Vegas.

Citing the risk of the executive's "gambling with my money," Shaoolian passed on the deal.

Much has changed since the long-ago day, say a dozen years ago, when background checks involved contacting an endless list of potential sources or hiring a private investigator.

"Things are a lot different now," Nawoj pointed out. "It's a more public world." In not just a negative sense, she hastened to add.

Sure, 35 percent of the employers report deep-sixing indiscreet job applicants. But, on the flip side, 18 percent told CareerBuilder they had offered a candidate a job because something positive came to their attention on a social media site.

Visit stltoday.com to read this article: Employers Say Social Media Over-Exposure Can Kill Job Prospects
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