There’s been a lot of buzz over the past couple of years about employers checking potential employees’ Facebook pages. According to some research, 37% of employers checked out a candidate’s Facebook profile before hiring them, and half of candidates were rejected because of the content they found there. With somewhere around 1/7th of the world’s population using Facebook, you can see why recruiters and job seekers should be paying close attention to the ways in which it is used. But what happens when employers go one step further and check out your friends’ profiles? If they’re already checking out your profile, why wouldn’t they be checking out some of your friends as well? Here are four reasons that thorough recruiters care about your Facebook friends:
1. Your associations tell employers how you would fit into the company’s culture:
Every company has a different view on things like drinking, smoking, drugs, cursing, and professional conduct. I’ve worked with companies on both ends of this spectrum from jobs in food service where my manager openly smoked marijuana, to desk jobs in stuffy offices where it felt like golf and football were the only allowable non-work-related conversation topics. Fitting in with a company’s culture is a big deal, and many hiring managers look at your friend group for indications that you might be a good fit or not.
For example, if your profile is squeaky clean, but every person in your friends list has a profile flooded with updates about their latest late-night binges, some employers might take this as a bad sign. On the other hand, if your friends mostly seem like people who would fit into the company’s culture, it’s likely that you’ll be a good fit as well. It’s a generalization, but if you think hiring managers never make generalizations, then you’re naive.
2. A look at your network tells employers how well connected you are:
While Facebook may not be a strictly professional networking platform, some employers hiring in sales or marketing may take a serious look at your connections. Knowing potential customers or influential professionals in the industry can really only help your chances of getting noticed. Employers may also look for people who they can use as references, so building up a strong friends list could really help your chances of getting hired.
3. Friends who also work at the company might be a good sign…or not:
Almost every job I’ve gotten has been because I knew someone in or close to the company. Sometimes employers will look through your friends to see if you already know anyone at the company. If that person is a great employee and they offer a solid recommendation of your work ethic, it could be a huge plus. Conversely, if one of your Facebook friends just got fired for stealing cash from the store’s register, they might hurt your chances of getting the job. One time, an interviewer actually asked me about someone who was a friend and had been previously let go from the company:
So I saw you are friends with John Doe? How would you rate his work ability?
Knowing that my friend had left the job on bad terms, I handled it as diplomatically as possible, but I definitely felt like the interviewer had made some assumptions about me based on my friend.
4. Facebook friends are easy to find and evaluate:
Friends of John Doe who like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
I will get a list of all your friends who are likely drinkers. Then, a quick run-through of their photos would show me if you happened to be doing shots with them last weekend. Some employers may not care, but some may. Keep in mind that simply untagging pictures of yourself won’t remove them from the internet, but you can take steps to curb the power of Graph Search if you’re worried about it.
Now, I’m not going to advocate removing all your friends or shutting down Facebook completely. In fact, I think there are a lot of ways in which Facebook can be really helpful during your job search, but you should be aware of the steps that employers might take to vet potential candidates. Even beyond Facebook, the company you keep can have a big impact on how others see you, so it’s important to choose your friends wisely. Have yours or a friend’s Facebook profile ever cost you a job? If you’re a recruiter, have you ever looked through a candidate’s profile before hiring (or not hiring) them? Let me hear your story in the comments below.
Author: Karl L. Hughes is the founder of Job Brander, a website devoted to helping entry-level marketing professionals find the best jobs and internships possible. You can reach him on Twitter via @KarlLHughes.