When applying for jobs, it is customary to go through a mental checklist. A stunning CV? Check. Snappy covering letter? Check. Professional LinkedIn profile writing in place? Of course. Appropriate Facebook profile? That’s the one that seems to be catching more and more people out.

It is becoming clear in these modern times that an individual’s online identity can be as much of a deciding factor in the selection process as qualifications and experience. After all, your Facebook profile could be interpreted as the ultimate CV: personal, honest, and 100% you. Which is why employers are increasingly looking at the online presence of their candidates before making a decision.

Former recruiter Nick Bryan confirms this is a common practice, in the technology sector at least: “As someone who has reviewed CVs for IT jobs: yes, we look at your Facebook. And Twitter. And blog.” While it is hardly an exact science, evidence exists to suggest that certain traits (such as intellectual curiosity, conscientiousness and agreeability) can be determined through the nature of the content that people upload to Facebook. A wide range of personal interests and photographs of travel are generally well received, and even snaps of nights out can demonstrate an extroverted, sociable personality.

However, a recent study conducted by YouGov found that 42% of university students are concerned that their Facebook photographs, status updates and comments may end up causing them some embarrassment when they go on to seek work. To further complicate matters, it has been found that in some cases, deleted Facebook content can be viewed up to three years after removal. The constant changing of the settings regarding security and privacy on Facebook also means that a user may believe their profile to be only viewable by approved members, but it is in fact visible to a much wider audience.

To candidates looking for new opportunities while still in their present jobs, Nick Bryan advises discretion: “Saying you’re a ‘motivated team player’ within your LinkedIn profile writing and on your CV only goes so far if you also abuse your current employer regularly in full public view.” In 2010, an RBS employee bragged about her £6000 redundancy package on her Facebook page before a colleague reported her. She was then dismissed for misconduct, having broken a secrecy agreement. The disgruntled employee went to the press, arguing that her status updates amounted to little more than “a chat with mates”, but today’s Internet-savvy employers would be inclined to disagree: when it comes to a platform like Facebook, it is wise to remember that the whole world can hear you.

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