If you listen to the news, you may think that the only link between Facebook and your employment is the opportunity to lose your job or a chance to interview — major media outlets love to share information about people who indiscriminately posted something on Facebook that got them fired.
However, with over 550 million users, Facebook does provide a great way to connect with potential employers. Many hiring organizations are spending time and effort to build Facebook pages as portals for job seekers. So, how can you maintain your privacy on Facebook, while at the same time allowing enough access for potential networking and job opportunities?
Facebook rarely misses an opportunity to encourage users to share information with the masses. It’s important to remember that Facebook frequently makes changes to their privacy settings. Keep up-to-date by reviewing their privacy settings information page. The best advice is to avoid posting anything on Facebook that you would not want a prospective employer to see.
To make sure your privacy settings are as secure as possible, follow the “Account” tab at the top of your profile and select “Privacy Settings.” On the left side, you will see an option to choose “Custom” settings. You will see a small note in the second column that says “Customize Settings.” Click that, and you will land on a page that allows you to select a setting for every part of your Facebook profile.
When you review these options, note that selecting “Everyone” does not only mean everyone in Facebook, it actually means “everyone on the internet.” In other words, things you post for “everyone” to see may be indexed by Google and searchable. In order to ensure that friends of friends or others (who may also be recruiters or hiring managers) do not see photos or other information you do not want to share, I would recommend selecting “Friends Only” for every choice except the following:
Bio and favorite quotations – I recommend allowing “Everybody” to see this information. This allows people who are using Facebook to search for qualified applicants to find you based on information you share about your professional experience in the bio section. Since this section is tied to quotations, do not post quotes that would be inappropriate for everyone to see.
Website – if you have a website, presumably, it is a site you would welcome everyone to visit. If it is not professional, obviously, you will want to set this selection for “only friends.”
Places I Check Into – did you know that Facebook can track your whereabouts? There is a geolocation feature, and the default setting allows other people to “check you into” places, whether or not you are there. It is important to set this to allow “only me” to check you into places. Also be sure to disable the tab that says “friends can check me into places.”
Photos. Be sure to review the small tab that says, “edit album privacy for existing photos.” This will provide an opportunity to review all of your photo albums and to select that “friends only” can see them if they are personal. If you have photos of you in professional situations, presenting at conferences, or on the job, you may want to allow “everybody” to view those albums only.
Limited Profile: If you begin exchanging friend requests with prospective professional contacts, you may wish to create a “Limited Profile” group setting. This allows you to create a list of people who can only view certain content, saving you the trouble of marking every single photo album “friends only” or “just me.” Mark any personal content that you’d like to leave visible to friends and family but unavailable to employers and colleagues “Friends Only, Except for Limited Profile.”
These are important steps to ensure that your Facebook information remains as private as you wish. Remember the cardinal rule: assume everything you post could wind up on a billboard somewhere or quoted in your local newspaper. Do not share anything that you would not want disseminated across the Internet.