When college graduation approaches, many Facebookers go under the radar. Walls disappear, profile pictures morph into professional(ish) headshots and albums become hidden. But should college students mask their true identities on Facebook for fear they’ll be judged by future employers?
The answer is yes… sort of. Much like the saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ college students can’t always be evaluated by their Facebook profiles. And while it’s natural – and necessary – to be concerned about the manner in which future employees represent themselves online (and consequently your company), it’s also important to remember that many college students today were weaned off the bottle and directly on to MySpace. And hiding their true identities until they land a position only complicates the issue.
With a majority of their lives spent online and on social networking sites, many soon-to-be college grads don’t have the knowledge or proper coaching to understand what’s acceptable in your organization or the workplace in general. But with opportunity and a little guidance, you can help them clean up their rough digital edges.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Writing skills. Though some college students will inevitably use the platform to complain about studying or wax poetic about their wild freshman days, others allow their friends to enjoy witty remarks, relevant articles and entertaining commentary on everyday life. If a college student can represent him or herself online while maintaining an acceptable level of professionalism, chances are they’ll be an asset to you. But if they’re anything like this candidate, it’s okay to reject.
- Discriminatory comments: Silly, immature posts from college students are inevitable. But if your candidate is spewing racist, homophobic or otherwise hateful messages on their Facebook, that’s a pretty good indication that they won’t be a good fit for your company.
- Inappropriate photos. As great as it would be to see entry-level candidates pictured studying, doing charity work and participating in extracurricular activities, the reality is that you’ll probably see more from the college nightlife side. In 2010, a college senior who had already secured a full-time position said this about her decision not to remove party pictures from Facebook:
“Big Ten schools have the reputation of excessive partying. That’s something that’s here with me in college, I don’t plan to take that partying with me in the future and I didn’t want someone to see that and judge me…they’re my memories and I want to keep them for now.”
Bottom line? Remember that Facebook – though increasingly becoming more professional in nature for many – was designed as a social space. While you must be wary of candidates who show questionable judgment online, remember that they’re still learning what it means to be “professional.”
Image: Riccardo Cambiassi/Flickr