Employers using social media to screen candidates

(NBC) - With few jobs out there and too many unemployed, more employers than ever are systematically screening candidates online, slicing through job applications by scanning Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social for red flags as well as reasons to hire you.

Wear a nice suit, maybe get a haircut. But beware, your prospective employer has probably already seen you anyway. That first impression has already been made.

Employers are going online with gusto. One 2010 Microsoft study found nearly 80% of employers are looking at applicants online activities. Facebook, twitter, blogs - anything you're sharing with friends consider it shared with everyone.

"The internet is the first, second and third stop for employers today when considering you for a job," said Michael Fertik, the CEO and founder of Reputation.com. "People are not even getting to first base, not even getting to the interview because of content that's out there about them on the web."

It's becoming known as a reliable source for candidate background. A new University of Maryland study found that employers can just scan a person's Facebook profile, and predict their personality, getting within 10 percent of their score on a personality test.

"Even if you're kind of exaggerating or embellishing or creating this idealized impression of yourself, the way you do it reveals your underlying personality traits," Jennifer Golbeck, University of Maryland

Companies are looking at everything.

  • The pictures you post
  • Comments
  • Group Affiliations
  • Status updates
  • Who you are friends with

"If they're getting a thousand applications for every opening, they have to find a way to very quickly reduce," Fertik said.

Employers are trolling the web for red flags, clues that you're not the one for their company. Among the things they are looking at are your online persona and even certain four letter words. If you put information out there, it'll be found.

A recent Columbia University study revealed that 100% of students surveyed were mistaken about their social network privacy settings.

"I keep it pretty clean," said Daniel Ware, a graduate student. "I keep people from posting on to my wall, I look for the pictures that are up because it's all fair game in a job search."

"The answer is not to become paranoid. You should use the web and use it wisely. Use it to curate the message, and curate the reputation you want, to become the candidate you deserve to be and get the job you deserve to get," said Ferik.

Employers are searching to eliminate candidates, but if you suit up and your profile is suitable, in the end they're searching to eliminate all but one.

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