Is this how you want your employer to see you for the first time?

BY ANDREW GROSSMAN

Published April 17, 2006

Members of Facebook.com groups such as "My B.A.C. is higher than my G.P.A." and "I make poor life decisions" may want to reconsider whether they still want to be in them.

Jess Cox
Jess Cox
Jess Cox

The social networking site is gaining more attention as it grows - not only from students, but also from potential employers, who are screening the profiles of job candidates and often finding objectionable information or pictures.

In response to an influx of student questions on the subject, the University's Career Center sent students an e-mail warning them about their online image earlier this month.

Lynne Sebille-White, an assistant director at the Career Center, said employers are likely using Facebook to screen potential hires.

This threat is increasing as University students who are familiar with Facebook graduate and enter the workforce.

"Especially as we see people who were once students and have alumni accounts going out into the workforce as human resources representatives," Sebille-White said.

While access to the University's section of Facebook is limited to those with e-mail addresses ending in umich.edu, those addresses are available to all 425,000 of the University's alumni, some of whom recruit or hire from the University.

Additionally, employers who aren't alumni can access the site through current interns or other employees with University e-mail accounts.

Facebook users can edit their privacy settings so that alumni and staff are prohibited from viewing their profiles.

Students had mixed reactions when they learned that potential employers may be looking at their profiles.

LSA freshman Gary Foreman was a member of groups like "Potheads" and "Legalize absinthe" until he spoke to a Michigan Daily reporter yesterday. A few minutes after the interview, Foreman had left the groups.

"Obviously that would probably send a bad message to employers about what my extra activities are," he said.

School of Music senior Charlie Klecha said he is not worried about potential employers being turned off by his membership in "I smoke entirely too much reefer."

"In general, the type of employment I generally seek, I wouldn't say is condoning of that, but wouldn't exclude me for that sort of information," Klecha said. "I've never been a very private person about the fact that I smoke weed."

Klecha is a theater major and plans to seek employment as a freelance lighting designer.

Sebille-White said students should approach their Facebook profiles in the same way they would approach an interview.

"It's a matter of how you want to be seen and how you manage your image," she said. "It's sort of like being your own PR agent."

Many students have posted on the site pictures of themselves pole-dancing, underage drinking or doing illegal drugs. Even Facebook walls, where other members post public messages on their friends' profiles, often contain objectionable content.

Sebille-White also cautioned students about other uses of the Internet. E-mail and personal websites could pose problems for job applicants as well, she said.

"You need to at least be thinking about it and making some conscious decisions about what you put in a public space," she said. "It may not even be something from your (Facebook) profile but from correspondence with other people."

Klecha said he is unsure whether employers should use Facebook to evaluate candidates.

"It's a very gray area," he said. "It's a really public, easy to use way to find out a lot information. I guess its sort of use at your own risk."