Note to job applicants: your potential employers aren’t just looking at Google and Yahoo.
Sunday’s New York Times includes a really interesting article by Alan Finder on how some companies now investigate job applicants on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Xanga, and Friendster. See “For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé.”
The article underscores a simple but important fact: users of social network sites shouldn’t assume that their postings are private. Although names like “MySpace” paint an image of personal spaces, personal doesn’t mean private. It’s not difficult to get into these sites – as the article notes, for some sites such as MySpace, you generally only need to register. For Facebook, to view entries for a particular college, you only need an e-mail address from that college.
That means an awful lot of people can view Facebook entries: alumni with email addresses (which could include potential employers), professors, even campus police. Despite this, at an emotional level, many people assume that their personal websites, blogs, and social network postings are relatively personal spaces that won’t be noticed or invaded by others. These assumptions are wrong in at least two ways.