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Could your MySpace profile <br />sabotage your job search?

It's no secret that there's a growing trend among employers to conduct Google searches as part of their hiring process. The newest twist is that this practice is beginning to seep into social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Friendster.

In fact, a recent Spherion survey found that almost 20 percent of workers would post their resumes on social networking sites for employers to see, and a third would remove certain content from these sites if they knew their employer (or prospective employers) could see it.

Should you do the same? The short answer is yes, according to many experts.

The World Wide Web is public domain, and users should assume that anything on it can be seen by anyone, including prospective employers. With more than 93 million profiles posted, MySpace is the third most popular site in the U.S. after Yahoo and Google, according to the Internet analysis company Alexa. It was only a matter of time before employers realized the recruiting benefits of this resource and began using these sites not only to screen out candidates, but also to actively recruit them.

Take the U.S. Marine Corps, for example, which maintains a MySpace profile that includes streaming video of daily life as a Marine and a link to "contact a recruiter." According to the Associated Press, more than 430 people contacted Marine recruiters this way in the first five months after the page went live. The U.S. Armed Forces are widely recognized for innovative recruiting techniques, and companies tend to follow their lead when it comes to recruitment tactics. The use of social networking sites seems to be no exception.

It is also important to keep in mind that while you might be a perfectly qualified candidate, an Internet search uncovering something embarrassing about you could ruin your chances of being hired.

Regardless of whether you have a colorful past or not, here's some advice for all job seekers. First, if you haven't typed in your own name and hit the 'Search' button, you really should. Many career experts recommend searching for your name on its own, and also in quotation marks.

If you are an active job-seeker who also uses sites such as MySpace, Facebook or Friendster for social networking, consider the following:

Be sure your profile, blog and chat content reflect the image you wish to portray during your job search.

When posting messages to friends, remember that prospective employers may be watching.

Make sure all the dates and job titles listed on your resume match up with your Web presence.

Don't let your screen name give you a false sense of privacy; there are many ways someone can learn your identity despite use of screen names.

Get the most out of your social networking page. More than just a place to gather online with friends, it's an opportunity to introduce yourself to prospective employers as well.

The up side to Internet social networking

Job seekers can work the online medium to their advantage, creatively using blogs, Web pages and Web portfolios to enhance the visibility of their accomplishments or talents.

You can also leverage popular social networking Web sites to learn more about the company you're considering and your potential supervisor's interests, hobbies, educational background or job history to see what you might have in common.

The down side to Internet social networking

For some job seekers, checking their online identity may mean unearthing dirt from their past that hasn't escaped the attention of one of the world's most powerful search engines. The bad news is if your indiscretion is a matter of public record, there isn't much you can do about it. In some cases, however, it might be worth contacting the owner of the site and asking them to remove the information. Also, be prepared to answer any questions a potential employer may have regarding this information during an interview.

Making a good impression on social networking sites can help in your job search efforts. At the very least, you won't be passed over for a job based on questionable information in your profile. If you play your cards right, it may not be long before employers will be chatting with you.

- Cindy Somers is an owner of Spherion Staffing Services in Champaign. She can be reached at (217) 359-4488 or cindysomers@spherion.com.

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