In a world where it’s difficult to find a college student without multiple social media accounts, online presence plays a huge role in most facets of life, including the workplace. As students begin to search for jobs and internships, it’s important to recognize the impact these online profiles can have on employment.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers found in 2012 that 65 percent of employers look at a prospective hire’s Facebook to help with their decision, and 16 percent look at Twitter. The same study found that these employers are primarily looking to see how the candidate presents themselves, to find out about candidate qualifications and to make sure they’d be a good fit for the company’s culture.

“The main thing that they’re looking for is, does the way this person is representing themselves online line up with the way they’re presenting themselves in person and in interviews?” Interim Director of Career Services Amie Hammond said.

However, Hammond also noted that while many companies take these online presentations into account, some companies’ human resource department are actively opposed to this practice and do not allow social media to have any impact on whether a candidate is hired or not.

Since most people use sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share personal details with friends and family, sometimes the images, articles or posts aren’t necessarily appropriate or helpful to share with a potential employer. Foul language, questionable behavior in photos or posts, illegal activities and even strongly stated political beliefs can all have a negative impact on chances of being hired.

When faced with cleaning up your online presence to begin applying for jobs, there are several options. Some people elect to totally privatize their accounts, although Hammond warns to examine privacy settings carefully to ensure that you know who can actually see your posts. If you do choose to let your profile stay public, it’s a good idea to go back through old pictures and posts, and delete or untag yourself from anything questionable.

Food science freshman Hana Claesson said that she uses something called the “grandma rule” — if you wouldn’t be comfortable with showing it to your grandma, don’t share it online. Hammond also encourages students to use the grandma rule when leaving their profiles public or semi-public.

Employers also often utilize social media to gain insight into candidates’ hobbies and personalities, as well as to look for red flags, so it ultimately falls to an individual’s personal choice as to how they want to portray themselves online, if at all.

While some students elect to stay off social media entirely to avoid any negative effects in the future, Hammond spoke about reaping potential benefits from positive online profiles. LinkedIn, particularly, allows companies to directly contact and hire students who may not have applied otherwise. LinkedIn is especially powerful because it allows employers to see more of a candidate’s experience, training and personality, beyond the limiting one-page resume typically included with an application.

“With an online profile, you can expand on [your resume] a little bit more and describe some of the skills that maybe don’t apply directly to the job, or any smaller school projects or involvement,” Hammond said.

Career Services also recently began integrating Handshake, a new job search site, and Portfolium, a site that allows for a more visual presentation of abilities and projects.

All Cal Poly students are able to create a Portfolium account and upload any files they feel represent their skills and abilities for potential employers to see, whether it be schematics, photography or research papers.

Hammond recommends bringing a tablet or phone to the Career Fair to quickly and easily show representatives past work
on Portfolium.

For any students having difficulty cleaning up their social media, Hammond emphasized that Career Services is there to help. Staff are available for drop-ins or appointments to help advise students on social media, Handshake, Portfolium or any other aspects of the job search and hiring process.

Career Services is located in Student Services (building 124), room 114 and is available by phone at (805) 756-2501 or email at careerservices@calpoly.edu.

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