by Anna Christenson

You might know Facebook as the place to post all your vacation photos, or the site to scroll through during a boring class. However, it could be more than a way to keep up with friends; it could be the thing that keeps you from getting your dream job.

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Nina Barnes, Director of Human Resources at UNWSP

According to Nina Barnes, director of Human Resources at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul (UNW), it is standard practice for employers to scope out applicant’s personal Facebook pages during the hiring process. She said employers are essentially looking for the candidate’s values and judgment.

“If I’m applying for a job at an organization,” Barnes began, “what I have to realize is that I’m representing that organization. Part of that organization’s responsibility is to hire people who will represent them well. For example, if someone is applying at UNW, the immediate thing that someone at Northwestern would look for are any photos that would make anyone question that person’s commitment to the mission of Northwestern or the Declaration of Christian Community.”

Even still, there are some things that should not be posted on Facebook, regardless of who the potential employer is, Christian or not.

“A pretty general statement would be not have pictures of people with lots of alcohol around them,” Barnes stated. “The issue is not the drinking itself. The issue is the celebration of the culture around alcohol, which could be more questionable.” She also recommended evaluating links and posts, saying, “We’ve all seen a post where someone thought the picture was good, but they didn’t look at who posted the picture, or it was full of profanity and now that’s on their Facebook page.”

Barnes continued, “What that might say to an employer, is that this person wasn’t careful enough. They might ask, when they come and work for me, are they going to be detail-oriented? Are they going to look carefully? Even in a secular or [a] very progressive organization, seeing a picture of someone surrounded by alcohol or participating in some questionable activity makes that employer cautious. There’s a risk factor there.”

In addition to monitoring content on a Facebook page, Barnes recommended  keeping privacy settings in place. “While you’re doing your search, lock down your privacy settings. Don’t let your page be viewed by friends of friends or the general public.”

Barnes also recommends that students consider having someone else review your Facebook page’s content. “Choose someone who may be outside of your own social setting or who works in an organization similar to the one you’re applying at.” When in doubt, deactivating an account for the duration of the job search is always an option as well.

Overall, Barnes recognizes the value of Facebook and believes that students should be able to use it to connect with friends, stating “People should be able to have a social media presence. It is a way that people connect, and it is not going to go away. There’s just a wisdom that needs to surround it.”

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