An interesting story in the most recent What's New @ IEEE for Students"
5. SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES MAY BE HURTFUL TO YOUR CAREER
While the number of social networking sites has exploded over the past few years, so too have the number of potential dangers associated with them for engineers looking for work, according to an article from IEEE USA Today’s Engineer. Employers often check these sites before hiring potential employers and can be shocked by the images and writing of their prospective hires and the inappropriate behavior this portrays. Many employers base their hiring decisions on the background information they gather on the employee. The article also explains techniques employers can use to locate information on sites that is considered private. Two online social networks focused on career training, information, and jobs are highlighted to emphasize that some social networks can be more helpful than others.
To read more, go to: www.todaysengineer.org/2007/Jan-Feb/networking.asp
And a quote from the original story in IEEE USA Today's Engineer:
Your Career Builders profile may be the professional face you wear online, but sites like MySpace or Facebook may be perceived as the “real” you. Many college students and entry-level employees may think that these social networking sites are not part of the adult world and forget that they are being viewed as an adult by their employer. To put a different face on the “real,” the first thing you may want to do is Google yourself. What comes up first? Is it true? Is it questionable? Can it be changed or removed? Is your name on a group photo you took with friends or co-workers on that wild night last year in Las Vegas? If so, what happened in Las Vegas may not stay in Las Vegas. It may end up on the computer screen of your present or prospective employer. Is there a “block comments” feature on your social networking site that you can use? You may want to ensure that the information on your site is suitable for most adult readers — including your grandmother!
The lesson in all this? Don't post anything on a social site that you wouldn't want your mother, father, grandmother, teacher, boss, potential boss, boy/girlfriend, whatever, to see. Sadly, we should probably consider social networking sites as an extension of our public personnas rather than as parts of our private lives. If you want to be naughty online, be anonymous. Read the whole article, it has a lot of insights on how potential employers use the web to check out applicants.
As an aside, when I'm on a search committee I always Google at least the short listed candidates and often many of the other applicants as well. I've never found anything shocking. On the other hand, I'm always surprised when I can't find anything about a candidate. How can you be an active professional (or even an aspiring one) in this day and age and leave no impression on the web?