If you Google “facebook fired” you will find dozens of media articles with examples of workers who lost their jobs because of materials in their personal FaceBook pages. Google “facebook hire” and you’ll likewise find a lengthy list of articles that cite the growing number of employers who search for employment prospects’ FaceBook, LinkedIn, and MySpace pages to get a more complete picture on the character of the person they are recruiting.
The problem that employers have with personal FaceBook pages is that it permits widespread viewing on the true character of its employees. For example, an employer that is a bank does not want to discover that its personal bankers (tellers and loan officers) wear a suit and tie by day and drink, carouse, and use drugs by night. In the digital world, such discoveries are being made daily and threaten the perception of integrity of businesses and their choices in employees.
You might ask, what business is my private life to my employer? Answer: none, provided it does not impair your ability to perform your duties. But, when you place details of your private life on your FaceBook page, it is no longer private, but published to the world. You private life is only private if you keep it to yourself. But whatever you put on a blogsite, FaceBook, MySpace, or other online medium, you are essentially opening those details of your private life for public scrutiny.
Employers have a real problem with that. What is an employer to do when it discovers that a trusted employee has a private life that seriously compromises the employer’s otherwise untarnished image? Because the employer itself is not publishing this information, it cannot control what is published, or who has read it. In some cases an employer must fear the worst and assume that customers, executives, regulators, and others may have seen this information, which could result in a messy PR debacle.
My advice: examine FaceBook’s privacy settings. Make your postings, pictures, links, and so on visible only to your Friends (not your Friends of Friends, not your Networks, not Everyone). Limit who can write on your Wall to only your Friends. Limit or block Facebook Applications completely. Make sure that only you can see photos tagged of you.
Remember: any post, link, note, or photo on your Facebook – any of your Friends can share them with any outsider. Therefore, your central principle should be: do not post any status, link, note, photo, or anything else on Facebook that you might have to explain to your employer (or prospective employer) at any time in the future.
But more than this: scour your Facebook profile for any existing posts or photos. Delete anything that could cause embarrassment (or worse) in the future if your privacy settings were suddenly changed or if someone turns against you and discloses the contents of your Facebook.
View your Facebook profile from the perspective of one of your friends (you can do this in Privacy > Profile), to make sure it reveals no more than you wish.
There are a lot of reasons to lose your job: layoffs, reduction in force, going out of business. Don’t add a preventable indiscretion to the list.