People have been aware for some time that employers often check out job applicants' social networks.
Now results of a Harris Interactive survey reveal what employers look for when they check out the social media activity of job applicants, and what type of Facebook pictures and posts could keep you from getting hired.
"Employers are using all the tools available to them to [ensure that] they make the correct hiring decision, and the use of social media continues to grow," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "For job seekers, it is essential to be aware of what information they're making available to employers, and to manage their online image."
A Harris Interactive online survey of 2,100 hiring and human resources managers found that two out of five companies go to social networking sites to research job candidates. Managers want to get a glimpse of applicants' behavior and personality outside of the interview room to see if they would fit into the corporate culture.
The study was conducted for CareerBuilder, a major employment website.
According to the survey, employers that had taken job candidates out of the running after researching their activity on social media sites reported that a variety of types of disconcerting content could lead them to make such a decision.
For instance, 50% said that they had eliminated job applicants who had posted provocative or inappropriate photos or information, 48% said they were turned off by candidates who posted information about drinking or drug use, and 24% said they had rejected applicants after finding information that indicated that a candidate had lied about qualifications.
The study also showed that 33% of hiring managers passed over an applicant who badmouthed a previous employer online. And 28% didn't hire someone because of derogatory comments about gender, religion or race the candidate made on a social network.
"It'll probably come as a surprise to job seekers that their social media posts play such a big role in hiring decisions, but it really shouldn't," said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. "People who are looking for jobs right now should absolutely go in and scour their social network posts to make sure they're clean and free of anything offensive. But really, everyone should probably pay more attention to what they post and how it might look to someone who doesn't know you personally."
While people should worry about prospective employers looking at their drunken photos from a college roommate's birthday party, the fact that hiring managers are checking social media sites can also be good news. Many of the survey respondents said that they had found information on social networks that boosted a candidate's chances of being hired.
Fifty percent of hiring managers said they were more likely to hire a candidate whose social network activity showed a well-rounded person with a wide range of interests. And 46% said that they liked applicants whose posts or pictures showed a creative side.
So what can job hunters do to help themselves, other than not posting offensive jokes or racy pictures of themselves and their friends?
CareerBuilder suggests doing online searches of yourself so you know what employers will find. If you find any content -- images, video or text -- that might keep you from getting a job, remove it.
When in the job market, be aware of what photos you're being tagged in and what your friends are posting. Just because you're being careful, doesn't mean that they are.
Job hunters also can use their social networking sites to showcase their experience, interests and talents by posting information about their awards, volunteer activities and hobbies.
This article, "What Facebook Posts Will Keep You From Getting Hired," was originally published on Computerworld.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter, at @sgaudin, and on Google+, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.