A recent CNN article pointed out that a number of students have been changing their Facebook names in order to hide their profile from college recruiters and potential employers. This comes after a recent survey commissioned by Microsoft revealed that 79% of recruiters look up their candidates’ information online: that means they will Google your name, check your LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and more. In today’s environment, is it realistic to try to hide your information from prospective employers, or should we all accept that we have to let it all hang out?
The CNN article discusses a series of students who use the tactic of changing their Facebook names’ spelling order, so that their first name and last names have reversed first letters. For instance, John Doe would become Dohn Joe. People in their networks still maintain their connections to the users, and the photo remains the same, so friends wouldn’t have much of a problem with the change, but when recruiters came along and attempt to search for John, they can’t find him. Some users also create secondary accounts, in this example the new account would be named John Doe, which has limited information and only select, flattering photos.
This is a concept also used by a lot of people in the workforce. They have two accounts, one for personal use and one for work, and this is a way they can keep the networks completely separate. Some users will say that the work network is better accomplished through a social network like LinkedIn, but employees in large companies with big pools of corporate acquaintances seem to like to use Facebook to connect with people in a light-hearted manner. Also, you see a lot of younger employees connecting with older employees in this way: the younger employee has to hide all of his college Facebook shenanigans, and since the older employee has only been on as a family man, he has nothing to hide and keeps his single Facebook account as his corporate and personal one.
The real question here is whether this tactic can do more harm than good. Since Facebook allows users to look up profiles based on email addresses, John Doe might get caught when a recruiter or school finds his Dohn Joe account, and that would be the most incriminating thing of all: he clearly is sneaky and has something to hide. This fact means that we may be moving to a point where we are going to need to trust the Facebook privacy settings, even though there have been holes before, to help us separate our social circles and corporate circles. I’ve heard people say that Facebook will change the way people relate to their coworkers by promoting a more open relationship, but that’s naive, in my opinion. There will always need to be a separation between personal and work, as managers and other positions of responsibility depend largely on their projected image, and that is tough to maintain when there are photos of the weekend bender circulating the office.