Potential employers lurk on MySpace, Facebook

Looking for red flags, employers are checking out applicants' social networking profiles, as well as Googling them.

With the explosive popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace comes the risk of a future employer finding out what a job applicant does in his or her spare time. More and more employers are using these sites, along with Google and Yahoo to screen potential applicants, reports the New York Times.

"It's a growing phenomenon," said Michael Sciola, director of the career resource center at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. "There are lots of employers that Google. Now they've taken the next step."

Companies that hire seniors right after graduation use the search engines to conduct background checks, and now they are looking up applicants on social networking sites where students often post provocative photographs and comments thinking that that information is private.

"The term they've used over and over is red flags. Is there something about their lifestyle that we might find questionable or that we might find goes against the core values of our corporation?" said Trudy G. Steinfeld, executive director of the Center for Career Development.

There have been many concerns about youth-oriented social networking sites, especially regarding their misuse by stalkers and unwitting students who post inappropriate material. Now students can add potential employers to the list of scary MySpace lurkers.

"I think students have the view that Facebook is their space and that the adult world doesn't know about it," said Mark W. Smith, assistant vice chancellor and director of the career center at Washington University in St. Louis. "But the adult world is starting to come in."

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