Online presence essential part of job search

In today’s world of social networking, few students realize their latest tweet or most recent wall post on Facebook can decide whether they get the internship or job they want.

Since the advent of social networking Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, many employers have used these sites to get information on job candidates, said marketing professor Julie Baker.

Baker said companies’ use of social networking Web sites helps them select the proper candidate for a job from a pool of applicants with similar resumes. She also said students should be mindful of the content they put on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

“A lot of students don’t realize that a lot of the things they put on their Facebook pages are probably not appropriate if they’re thinking about building a personal brand that potential employers might want to access,” Baker said.

Holly Paul, recruitment leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said building a proper online presence can be an important step in landing a job.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the nation’s largest accounting firms, incorporated online branding as part of its national “personal brand week” for people seeking employment, Paul said. The initiative focused on five elements the company recommends students master to develop their personal brand with a series of interactive, online activities.

Paul said a personal brand represents a person’s ability to understand his or her strengths and know how to effectively communicate them to others. Developing a personal brand can help job applicants become stronger candidates for a position.

To help build one’s online brand, the Web site encourages people to use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to build relationships with new contacts and stay in touch with old ones as well as adding further insight into their personality.

The Web site also encourages people to do simple things like commenting on blogs and or reviewing books on Amazon.com to build their online brand.

Although building an online brand can be a good way for job applicants to get their name out to employers, PricewaterhouseCoopers warns to make sure the online content is “rated PG,” citing a 2009 CareerBuilder survey that found 45 percent of employers admitted to using social network scouting for applicants as part of the employment process.

Wes Howeth, a sophomore finance major, said he isn’t concerned about the content on his Facebook page, but the level of access some companies have to potential job candidates’ personal lives concerns him.

“It feels a little disturbing to know that you’re out there like that and that an employer could easily find everything they want to about you without asking you a question,” Howeth said. “But it’s the risk you take when you get a Facebook or a MySpace, and it’s a risk you have to understand.”

The company created personal brand week because it recognized, through its connections with thousands of students around the country, the need for students to be able to differentiate themselves in the competitive job market, Paul said.

Landing a job in today’s market requires students to have more than just a strong GPA, Paul said.

“Getting the grades is really just the start – I sort of call that the stepping-stone,” Paul said. “But today, students need even more than that. They need a way to stand out from the crowd, a way to focus on their strengths and be able to tell a unique story about themselves.”

Associate Director for Career Services Jessica Cates said students’ ability to stand out from their competition has become more important in recent years because of the increased number of applicants for an increasingly limited number of positions.

“Overall, I think it’s something that’s very important because of the increase in competition in the market right now,” Cates said. “Not only are students competing with their peers from all over the nation, but also with alumni and seasoned workers that have been laid-off or are changing positions. So it’s more important now than ever that they do stand out in an appropriate and professional way.”

Cates said initiatives that incorporate different ways for job candidates to pitch themselves to employers can help students properly communicate their strengths to employers.

Cates said initiatives that incorporate different ways for job candidates to pitch themselves to employers, like PricewaterhouseCoopers’ personal brand week, can help students properly communicate their strengths to employers.



PricewaterhouseCoopers Online Branding Services

Students can access the online activities from the personal branding week at www.pwc.tv.