Posted: May 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm

By Brooke Burton, Joshua Young and Stephen Sleeper

Brett Phillips knows the hazards of social media all too well. A few years go, he was fired as a residential assistant for WVU’s honors dorm after being tagged on Facebook photos showing him partying with students from his dorm. Yet there was no alcohol, drugs or inappropriate behavior in the photos.

“[The photos] were just a lot of people solidifying memories in film,” says Phillips. Being fired “was the last thing I expected after a fun night with my students,” he adds.

Phillips is one of an increasing number of people whose use of social media has gotten them into trouble with current or prospective employers.  Indeed, 69 percent of employers surveyed in a recent study say they have rejected a job candidate because of something they saw on the candidate’s social network.

Reppler, the social media monitoring service which conducted the survey, found that employers often rejected candidates because they had posted inappropriate photos or comments about drinking or using drugs, lying about their qualifications, or simply demonstrating poor communication skills.

“An employer just doesn’t want a bunch of pictures of you circulating that shows you being very unprofessional,” says Rachel Holmberg, a counselor at the WVU Career Services who works closely with graduating students. “A few pictures that are not very representative of you become representative because when they do a search, that’s all they can find.”

The use of social networks can help people promote their skills and find jobs. But if you post inappropriate photos or information, it could cost you that dream job. Photo courtesy of Reppler.

The use of social networks can help people promote their skills and find jobs. But if you post inappropriate photos or information, it could cost you that dream job. Photo courtesy of Reppler

However, the use of social media can also benefit job hunters if done right. According to Reppler, 68 percent of employers have hired someone because of positive things they saw on potential employees’ social media accounts. Holmberg says 15 percent of job applicants got their job by simply filling out an application and submitting a resume. The other 85 percent knew somebody within the company.

“Social media is great because it allows you to keep in touch with a lot of different people, people not necessarily close to you that you can touch bases with frequently,” Holmberg says.

Amy Lockhart used Facebook to promote her cake-baking skills. Her use of social media helped her land her current job as head baker for Naticakes in Bridgeport.

“I posted [my cakes] on Facebook and it just spread from there.  More people kept asking me to do cakes for them,” says Lockhart.  “It’s good to post your talents on social media because it makes people interested and you never know what can come from that.”

Jeffrey Ray, known by friends as Yofray, is the creator and filmmaker of the popular “I’m Shmacked” series that films universities across America. The series is known for its wild college parties. Some students are concerned about how the videos might affect their future. For example, Amanda Keshner, a junior at WVU, says she was filmed by Yofray, but the footage with her in it wasn’t released in the final video of WVU by “I’m Shmacked.”

“If I was in the ‘I’m Shmacked’ video, it could potentially jeopardize my future and all that I worked for at WVU,” Keshner says.

However, other students note that most people on these videos are hard to identify because there is no name-tagging feature.

Being involved in party videos such as the popular “I’m Shmacked” series could prevent students from getting jobs upon graduation if potential employers recognize them on the videos.  Photo courtesy YouTube.

Being involved in party videos such as the popular “I’m Shmacked” series could jeopardize students’ job prospects.  Photo courtesy of YouTube

Holmberg says social networks provide employers with a good first-round elimination of job applicants, so she encourages students to create some privacy on their Facebook and Twitter sites as they approach graduation. For instance, students can use their privacy settings on Facebook to customize who can see their posts or who can contact them. One feature lets users review all posts about them before it will show up on their page.

“A lot of people go through a clean-up phase, where they go ahead and they make accounts private that they haven’t made private before,” Holmberg says. “You don’t want to say anything you wouldn’t want someone to see. It’s not just about your posts; it’s about everyone’s posts.”