Ask LH: Will Not Being On Facebook Wreck My Employment Chances?

Dear Lifehacker, More and more I see employers using Facebook as a screening method for prospective employees, in one case, they even asked for passwords to privatised accounts. My question is this: does not having a Facebook account affect my employability? Will my application be scrapped due to lack of extracurricular information? And if so how do I make my (new) account show me in the best light to give perspective employers the best information? What are they looking for? Thanks, Socially Blindsided

Dear Blindsided,

Right now, I’d still suggest that employers who are using Facebook to screen are doing so in a negative fashion: looking for evidence of outrageous behaviour or other reasons not to hire you. Facebook reflects your overall life, not your career goals, so it would be odd to use it as a positive basis for making a hiring decision (though we have seen examples of people using Facebook to advertise themselves to potential employers).

There are certain areas of employment where having a prominent online profile is important, marketing being the most obvious. But Facebook isn’t likely to be the focus here; Twitter and other open networks are more important.

It’s worth emphasising that no employer has the right to demand access to your Facebook profile or to request your password. If an employer did that, I’d be mentally crossing them off my list of potential workplaces immediately, no matter how desirable the job itself might seem.

To ensure that your Facebook profile doesn’t show up in casual searches, hit the Account settings page, go to the Privacy section, click ‘Manage’, click on ‘Edit your settings’ under the ‘Apps and Websites’ area at the bottom left of the screen, and click the ‘Edit settings’ button for Public search. Make sure ‘Enable public search’ isn’t ticked.

While Facebook itself might not be an issue, your other question — whether a lack of extracurricular information might see your application ignored — is a very valid one. There are plenty of things you can do online that will make you look like a more valuable potential employee (and ensure your name shows up in a good light on a Google search):

  • Set up a blog covering the area you want to work in. This needn’t cost you anything — you can use a free option like Blogger or WordPress. Mention the blog in your resume, but only after it’s been active for a while. (Don’t make the mistake of saying “Sorry I haven’t posted for a while” though, as that can imply a lack of time management skills.)
  • If you’re looking for work in a technical/IT area, get involved with an open source project. That demonstrates your skills and also your ability to work independently. (That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be a programmer; many open source projects are crying out for documentation as well. Hit a site such as SourceForge and seek out a project which appeals to you and is in active development.
  • Set up a LinkedIn account and actively network with as many people as possible. This will probably work better once you’re in an entry-level job in your chosen field.

Good luck with the job hunting! If readers have additional thoughts on the role of Facebook and other online networks in job hunting, we’d love to hear them in the comments.

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