Job seekers need to be careful of what they put on the Web

WORKING DIGEST

April 26, 2006|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

As more students and young job seekers turn to social networking sites such as MySpace, Friendster and Facebook to connect with friends and write about their personal lives, employers and recruiters are following right behind. They are tapping into Internet search engines to cull information about job candidates. Job seekers have reason to worry: In some cases employers and recruiters are using the information to weed out candidates.

Three-quarters of 102 executive recruiters surveyed last fall by ExecuNet, of Norwalk, Conn. said they use search engines as part of the process to uncover information about job candidates. More than one in four said they have eliminated candidates because of what they found about the person on the Internet.

There's an explosion in the amount of personal material being launched into cyberspace by people who seemingly have no qualms about revealing details of their sexual escapades or not-so-hidden desires. They'll carry digital cameras to bars and parties and post photos of drunken friends to their Web pages and to those of their friends. On one MySpace posting, a 19-year-old Wisconsin woman writes about her pastimes: "I def. like to party ... I don't smoke but I drink a lot ... like a lot."

In a few years, Internet searches on job candidates will become even more commonplace, predicts Minneapolis employment attorney Tamara Olsen.

"The Internet is like a billboard or painting on the side of a building," said Olsen, who advises companies on electronic communication issues. "But because people are doing the communicating from a computer in their bedroom, they think of the Internet as private. Right now we are in a funny place where people are posting private things and they have no idea how public it really is."

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