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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 17, 2006

Dude! The boss saw my party pics

By Julie Forster
Knight Ridder News Service

A recent survey found most employers search online to check on job candidates. With the rise of social networks like MySpace and Friendster, job recruiters have even more access to personal information.

St. Paul Pioneer Press

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ST. PAUL, Minn. Worried that potential employers might peruse online postings at Facebook, Steve Lindgren used privacy settings to shut off access to his profile, pictures and musings to all but a limited circle of friends.

His friends will see that his favorite quote comes from Homer Simpson, that he makes a mean PB&J sandwich, and they'll see photos of his travels and "random partying." All college-humor type of stuff, Lindgren says, acknowledging that it's still not anything he'd want an employer to see.

"I'm not ashamed of anything, but it would be easy to get a different perspective of who I am," said the 22-year-old St. Cloud State University senior who is interviewing for finance jobs. "If I am directing it towards my friends, employers are probably not going to be too impressed with the profile."

As more students and young job seekers turn to social networking sites such as MySpace, Friendster and Facebook to connect with friends and write about their personal lives, employers and recruiters are following right behind. They are tapping into Internet search engines to cull information about job candidates.

Job seekers have reason to worry: In some cases, employers and recruiters are using the information to weed out candidates.

Three quarters of 102 executive recruiters surveyed last fall by ExecuNet, of Norwalk, Conn., said they use search engines as part of the process to uncover information about job candidates. More than a quarter said they have eliminated candidates due to what they found about the person on the Internet.

There's an explosion in the amount of personal material being launched into cyberspace by people who seemingly have no qualms about revealing details of their sexual escapades or not-so-hidden desires.

They'll carry digital cameras to bars and parties and post photos of drunken friends on their web pages and to those of their friends. On one MySpace posting, a 19-year-old Wisconsin girl writes about her pastimes: "I def. like to party ... I don't smoke, but I drink a lot ... like a lot."

In a few years, Internet searches on job candidates will become even more commonplace, predicts Minneapolis employment attorney Tamara Olsen. She advises those who bare their souls and, um, other things online should consider the consequences.

"The Internet is like a billboard or painting on the side of a building," said Olsen, who advises companies on electronic communication issues. "But because people are doing the communicating from a computer in their bedroom, they think of the Internet as private. Right now we are in a funny place where people are posting private things and they have no idea how public it really is."

In most cases, job candidates will never know the reason why they were turned down, or that the employer was looking at their postings in the first place.

Morgan Kinross-Wright, director of the undergraduate career center at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, said there is so much buzz about recruiters reading Facebook postings that she is considering a "town hall" meeting with students to drive home the point that what they post online could affect their future.

"Recruiters are using what is on their personal space to make professional decisions," she said.

To Ryan Schunk's point of view, what he does in his personal life is not an employer's business. He's not swayed by warnings from professors and isn't about to change what is posted on his Facebook page.

For one, Schunk's friend posted a picture of Schunk dancing on the stage at a bar. While the University of Minnesota Duluth junior admits it's not a flattering photo, he's not about to be cowed by the specter of employers peeking in on his personal life.

"Whether or not they are going to or not, that's fine, but I don't think it's any of their business," Schunk said. "You get to the point where, then you have to start watching what you are doing in your private life. It just seems ridiculous."

Schunk's 18-year-old sister, Reyanna, is more cautious. She diligently edits her entries on MySpace, asking herself what the managers would think at the restaurant where she works.