Social Media Sites Good For Employers, Bad For Employees
July 13, 2013

Social Media Sites Good For Employers, Bad For Employees

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

A new Northwestern University study found social media sites can be a big asset for employers, but detrimental for job applicants.

Researchers found that young adult men, Hispanics and those with lower Internet skills are the least likely to keep employment-related audiences in mind when it comes to their online profiles. However, women, whites and those with higher Internet skills are more likely to actively manage their social media privacy settings as they seek a job or maintain employment.

The study, which was published in the journal IEEE Security & Privacy, is the first to analyze how different demographics of young adults approach online reputation management strategies during a job search.

"Young people could benefit from understanding the implications of these issues. Without adequate privacy settings, inappropriate pictures or comments posted on a social media profile could be seen by an employer and cost you a job opportunity," said Eszter Hargittai, lead author of the study. "Managing the privacy of your social media profiles can be complex. A site's settings can change quickly, and if you are not keeping track and checking in on your settings regularly, you could inadvertently leave parts of your profile open to the public even if you had set them to more restricted access earlier."

The researchers said there may be a need for more formal training from career service organizations, libraries and others on best practices for maintaining self-presentation online.

According to the study's findings, 34.5 percent of men and 25 percent of women never managed their privacy settings or the content of their social media profiles with respect to an employer audience. The team discovered whites were much more likely than other races to adjust social media profiles at least once in the past year in anticipation of employers searching for information about them.

The scientists analyzed responses from a paper-and-pencil survey given to a sample of 545 diverse young adults, between the ages 21 or 22. The study was designed to asses the extent to which young adults monitor their self-presentation on social media networks and their privacy-related Internet skills and knowledge.

The team believes the study could have important implications for social network site designers, as it highlights how lower-skilled Internet users fail to use privacy-related settings on a regular basis.