When you’re seated before a panel of HR reps, Lady Gaga should be the last thing on your mind. But according to a survey conducted by Careerbuilder.com, four of those recruiters may have seen your sloppy rendition of “Poker Face” on Facebook—and the sticky Solo cups strewn around your feet. Eszter Hargittai, an associate professor of communication studies whose web use research has been featured in the New York Times and Washington Post, shares some sage advice to secure that callback.
Stop obsessing over privacy settings. Facebook treats its privacy settings about as seriously as it does lawsuits from the Winklevoss twins. Don’t rely on the company’s built-in options without thinking of technical glitches and general misuse. Hargittai believes privacy settings aren’t going to save you anyway. “I think it’s less about what you’re keeping ‘private’ [than] what you’re posting at all,” she says.
Stay on top of things. “People should have an online presence that they’re fully in control of,” Hargittai says. Job recruiters aren’t interested in the second-to-last result on the seventh page of a web search. First-page results are paramount and not completely out of your influence. Creating an account on LinkedIn, regularly updating a personal blog or registering a domain are surefire approaches to Google housekeeping.
Consider separate accounts, not separate personalities. It’s no secret that college students often maintain two emails: one to beg professors for extensions and another to receive Perez Hilton’s daily newsletter. But avoid using your second account as a refuge for a second persona. If a cover letter states you can begin work in July, don’t tweet about that intercontinental excursion this summer. “You don’t want to portray conflicting information,” says Hargittai. “It’s actually remarkable how inconsistent people can be.”
Trust no one, including your BFFs. You ultimately can’t control whether your jocular buddies will tag you in a blushworthy photo or upload video of a regrettable evening to YouTube. An “omg take that down now lol” text may result in prompt deletion, but you never know who has already marveled over your drunken recitation of “My Neck, My Back.” Private gossip confined to a Facebook chat window can easily enter the public sphere—just ask anyone who’s forgotten to log out at the library. “The assumption that if you send it to your best, closest friends, no one will ever see it, is wrong,” Hargittai says.