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How to Clean Up Your Facebook Before You Apply For A Job Or Internship

I agree, pictures of your flip cup victory are surely an indicator of athleticism. Your homemade sexy cat costume pics demonstrate your creativity, your photos dancing at the frats exhibit your interpersonal skills and your “I love Republicans” status shows you are passionate. Unfortunately, your future employers may not have the same point of view. With summer internship applications soon approaching, it’s as important to clean up your Facebook as it is to pick out a killer outfit for your interview. We’re not talking meticulously deleting every picture of you holding a red cup, but with 45 percent of employers using Facebook as a means to screen possible interns and employees it’s important to be as conscientious as possible.  What kinds of photos are appropriate to leave on your Facebook when applying for a job? Do employers care about the information you post? Does the language you use influence your chances at the job? We found out.

Go through your own photo albums and look at your profile picture       

Let’s face it, first impressions are important—which is why you wouldn’t walk into an interview in a mini skirt and cleavage-baring shirt (no matter how hot you looked!). Though you might not realize it, Facebook is often a part of your interview and impressions about your character are made with every click. In a survey of 2,667 human resource workers conducted by Harris Interactive and CareerBuilder, more than half identified provocative photos as the largest contributor in the decision not to hire a potential intern or employee.  Edward Klein, president of KR Capital Advisors says, “Make your Facebook pictures private if you are applying for a job and make your profile picture something both expressive and mature.”  In other words, no profile pictures of you making out with your boyfriend. Instead, make your profile a pic of you on vacation (no bathing suits!), a school photo or a shot of you playing on your sports team. The Washington University Career Center agrees and says private pictures and profiles are the way to go. Consider Facebook the gossipy friend we all wish we didn’t have—anything you tell it, everyone knows.

Go through your photos tagged by others

It is always a good idea to untag any photos you wouldn’t want a boss to see. All photos that include drinking, provocative outfits, or poses that give off a bad attitude need to go! Just because a picture doesn’t have a red cup doesn’t mean it doesn’t speak to your judgment or personality. When in doubt about the appropriateness of a picture, ask yourself if you would be comfortable sitting next to your boss as he/she looked at it. If the answer is no, delete! If a friend’s photo of you is particularly risqué, ask them to remove it altogether.

Now tackle your “info” page—take a look at your interests, quotes and relationship status 

With room for quotes, relationship status and interests, Facebook is the social media outlet with the most room for information faux pas. It may be obvious that posting information containing bad language and drug references is a bad idea, but everything from your political views to use of emoticons can be judged. When applying for a job, your first Facebook move should be an information overhaul. “The most important thing to portray through your Facebook page when applying for jobs is professionalism,” says the Washington University in St. Louis Career Center. In addition, use your quotes and interests sections on your FB page to enhance your chances of getting a job by presenting information relevant to the job you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for a job in the fashion industry, list fashion-related interests. First, go through all of your information and change anything that could be considered controversial—bad language, quotes about partying and excessive political information. Here are a few real life examples of quotes and info that need to go:

Quotes section:

“My mum used to say to me, ‘you can’t have fun all the time,’ and I used to say, ‘why not?’Why the f**k can’t I have fun all the time?”

Even if it’s a quote from a movie, quotes like these are inappropriate because they make potential employers worry about your character and your level of responsibility.

“I’d rather be famous than righteous or holy any day.”

Again, a quote like this would make an employer wonder about your values and your ability to professionally handle an internship. 

Acceptable quotes include appropriate music lyrics, PG jokes from friends, motivational quotations, or clean quotes from celebrities.

Interests section:

“Wondering if there is anyone more insane or annoying than Sarah Palin”

While it’s okay to list political involvement like “member of College Democrats,” expressing strong political sentiments is not always a good idea because the employer reading your page may either disagree with your statement or question your tact.  Just like it’s usually a no-no to bring up politics during a first date, the same goes for interests you portray to potential employers.

Once your “ info” is set, turn to your wall posts and status 

It’s often easy to forget that what other people post on your wall can be a reflection on you. Once your applications go out be sure to monitor what your friends post, because your friend saying “we got so drunk last night” will have the same effect as you posting it. When writing your status, keep it clean—always. Also, according to a new survey by CNN, 12 percent of employers who use Facebook as a screening method will not hire someone who uses emoticons. “Maturity is key,” says a representative from the Washington University in St. Louis Career Center.


Next, take a look at your relationship status

An important and easy thing to change is your relationships status. Keeping a real relationship status is fine, but a status like “widowed” may be considered more immature than funny to your potential employer.

How to change your interests, relationship status, quotes and information:

  1. Go to your profile page
  2. Click on the ‘info’ tab
  3. Across from ‘about me’ click ‘edit’
  4. Choose what you want to edit
  5. Click save

The (Facebook) Golden Rule! 

Never say anything negative about a past employer or internship!
Ashley*, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, was once asked about a previous tweet in a job interview. After finishing an internship, Ashley had posted a sarcastic comment about her boss whom her new employer happened to know. Ashley explained that the comment was a joke, but wasn’t offered the job. Never talking badly about any employer or job experience is the golden rule of social media etiquette. 

Now, set to private or limited profile just in case

Regardless of how careful you are, it is always a good idea to set your Facebook page to private just in case. Here’s how:

  1. Log into Facebook
  2. Click ‘account’ in the upper righthand corner of the page and then click ‘privacy settings’
  3. Look at the different options for privacy settings ‘Everyone’, ‘Friends of Friends’, ‘Friends Only’ or ‘Custom’’
  4. For total privacy choose ‘Friends Only’
  5. If you want partial privacy click ‘Custom,’ and then edit your preferences
  6. Save

Always remember that everything you put on Facebook both reflects your judgment and your professionalism. Though it may seem ‘big brother-ish’ that companies use personal information from Facebook as a screening method, it is a tactic here to stay. Use Facebook to your advantage and create a profile that puts your best self forward!
Do you think it’s fair for potential employers to look at your Facebook? Sound off below!
Photo Sources
Edward Klein, KR capital advisors
Washington University in St. Louis Career Center 

Allie Klein is a junior at Washington University in St. Louis. She is majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Writing, Psychology and Public Health. She is a native New Yorker who attended the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan. Allie is the Vice President of Marketing for the Washington University Female Association of Business, a Campus Correspondent for ChickRx.com and is on the philanthropy committee of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She previously interned for Lauren Fishman Events and College Prowler Online. Allie loves writing, playing golf and Central Park. She is a complete reality T.V show junkie who is in love with trying new restaurants and eating Crumbs cupcakes.