How many times have to you caught yourself procrastinating on Facebook?

You know what I’m talking about right?

Looking at pictures (sometimes of people you don’t know), reading status updates, finding out who’s doing what and when.

It’s addictive.

Despite the voyeur attraction of Facebook, it’s also proven to be a valuable job search too. Job searchers post status updates about the type of work they’re looking for; Employers post hiring updates.

There is more to this nosey social media tool than catching up with old friends, or looking at strangers.

But, there are boundaries and discretion is advised if you’re going to create an account, or use this application on a regular basis.

While employers may post they’re looking to hire, beware they can just as easily use Facebook to investigate and judge you based on your profile.

While researching how employers check out future employees on Facebook I came across an article discussing the dismissal of two Washington police officers, one who resigned and another who was fired, after complaints about questionable photos on their respective Facebook pages.

According to reports they had pictures of themselves in uniform, as well as ‘party’ pictures. While not illegal, the police force felt the pictures portrayed poor judgment, and the officers were dismissed.

In my humble opinion, the outcome seems harsh, but it certainly serves as a warning.

There are others stories to support the notion that you may want to make sure your profile is squeaky clean.

Recently a scandal broke concerning Krystal Ball, a Virginia Democratic Congressional candidate. Lewd photos of Ms. Ball in a ’sexy Santa costume’ were circulated online. Moral of the story: if you’re planning on being a public figure don’t wear a sexy Santa suit, ever!

When using social media tools it’s important to consider that your Facebook pictures, or status updates can be searched if precautions aren’t taken.

Openbook, the website that searches ‘public’ status updates highlights how easily a profile can be exposed if privacy settings haven’t been established.

Even the Johns Hopkins University Newsletter reports that their career centre should be more proactive, advising students on how to conduct themselves on Facebook. Melissa Ziegler, assistant director of employer relations at the Career Center, acknowledges that “Employers say it’s [Facebook] like checking references.” Further, “students think that [Facebook] is private because it’s password protected, but if it’s on the Internet, it’s fair game.”

What should you do to protect yourself?

Here are a few tips:

1. Clean up your Pictures: be careful what pictures you decide to post. You may want to think twice before posting any compromising photos; and remove tags to others that aren’t appropriate.

2. Steer clear of politics and religion: It may be wise to abstain from posting politically or religiously charged status updates, unless politics or religion is your profession. A future employer doesn’t need to know which way you vote.


3. Change your privacy settings: Facebook has a number of privacy settings. You may want to make sure you secure your personal information or pictures before applying for positions or accepting a friend request from an employer.

Facebook is a great networking tool, and can potentially be a valuable job search tool, however discretion is advised.