People have been aware for some time that employers often check out job applicants' social networks.
Now a new survey reveals what employers look for and what pictures and posts on Facebook could keep a prospective candidate from getting that perfect job.
"Employers are using all the tools available to them to assure they make the correct hiring decision, and the use of social media continues to grow," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "For job seekers, it is essential to be aware of what information they're making available to employers, and to manage their online image."
A Harris Interactive online survey of 2,100 hiring and human resources managers showed that two out of five companies go to social networking sites to research job candidates. Managers want to get a glimpse of applicants' behavior and personality outside of the interview room to see if they would fit into the corporate culture.
The study was conducted for CareerBuilder, a major employment website.
According to the survey, employers who took a candidate out of the running for a job after researching social media sites reported finding a variety of concerning content.
For instance, 50% found a job applicant had posted provocative or inappropriate photos or information. Forty-eight percent said they were turned off by a candidate who posted information about drinking or drug use, while 24% found information that showed the candidate had lied about qualifications.
The study also showed that 33% of hiring managers passed over an applicant who badmouthed a previous employer online. And 28% didn't hire someone because of derogatory comments about gender, religion or race the candidate made on a social network.
"Even today, it'll probably come as a surprise to job seekers that their social media posts play such a big role in hiring decisions, but it really shouldn't," said Dan Olds, an analyst with the Gabriel Consulting Group. "People who are looking for jobs right now should absolutely go in and scour their social network posts to make sure they're clean and free of anything offensive. But really, everyone should probably pay more attention to what they post and how it might look to someone who doesn't know you personally."
While people worry about those drunken photos from their college roommate's 30th birthday party, there's also good news. Managers also found information that boosted a candidate's chances of being hired.
Fifty percent of hiring managers said they were more likely to hire a candidate whose social network showed a well-rounded person with a wide range of interests. And 46% of managers liked applicants whose posts or pictures showed a creative side.
So what can job hunters do to help themselves, other than not posting offensive jokes or racy pictures of themselves and their friends?
CareerBuilder suggests that people do online searches of themselves so they know what employers will find. If there are images, video or text that might keep you from getting a job, remove it.
When in the job market, be aware of what photos you're being tagged in and what your friends are posting. Just because you're being careful, doesn't mean that they are.
Job hunters also can use their social networking sites to showcase their experience, interests and talents by posting information about their awards, volunteer activities and hobbies.
This article, What Facebook posts will keep you from getting hired, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is email@example.com.
Read more about it careers in Computerworld's IT Careers Topic Center.