by Teri Fritsma

It used to be that employers only had resumes, cover letters, and interviews to go by when making hiring decisions.  No more.  A new study conducted by Harris Interactive (on behalf of shows that 45% of all employers reported checking up on job applicants using social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  And 35% of employers said that they found material on these sites that actually caused them not to hire certain applicants. 



What findings caused employers to reject applicants?  Provocative photographs, inappropriate content, discussions about alcohol or drug use, bad-mouthing of previous employers, discriminatory comments, lying about qualifications, or sharing confidential information about a previous employer were some of the big reasons.  Employers also said they disregarded job applicants who used text language (such as “GR8” for “great”) in correspondence.  


If you’re job hunting, keep these tips in mind.


  • Your online identity can help or hurt you.  If an employer is considering you seriously enough to research you online, make sure that your own words or photographs don’t come back to haunt you.  Google yourself and read everything carefully to catch potential problems.


  • Clean up your online identity by deleting those pictures of you and your drinking buddies. Remove any swear words, gripes about old employers, or discriminatory comments.


  • Create a professional online identity.  Join LinkedIn and other online professional groups that are related to your areas of interest and expertise.  Ask someone to “recommend” you on LinkedIn with a formal online endorsement of your skills or accomplishments.  Create a website, or blog about your professional interests — again, being careful about personal or confidential content.


  •  Be choosy about who you “friend”.   Your profile may be squeaky clean, but make sure you don’t suffer from guilt by association.


  • It’s okay to be creative.  The CareerBuilder survey found that nearly 40% of employers decided to hire a candidate because they showed creativity online.


  • Check your grammar, spelling, and writing.  Nearly 30% of employers rejected job applicants because they showed poor communication skills.  Consider your online presence as part of your portfolio.  Have a good writer read through any of your materials to catch errors.


  • If you’re currently employed, don’t mention your job search online.  Be discreet about where you’ve applied and/or interviewed.  And above all, don’t share confidential information about past, current, or prospective employers.

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