How many Facebook friends have you added this week? How many tweets have you posted? For most students, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow for quick and easy communication. Sites like these allow students to express themselves to many audiences. But you also expose yourself to unsolicited scrutiny.

According to Fox Business, 80% of universities use Facebook and other social media platforms to recruit potential students. Although UTM doesn’t scan the profiles of hopeful high school students prior to admission, it does implement an “honesty is the best policy” guideline for those currently enrolled.

“There are no official rules or policies regarding students who tweet, post, or blog on behalf of U of T Mississauga,” says Nicolle Wahl, the assistant director of communications at UTM. “We have laid out some general guidelines and best practices that apply to academic and administrative accounts. These would also apply to students who represent the university online.”

These guidelines state that “the keys to success in social media are being honest about who you are, being thoughtful before you post, and respecting the purpose of the community where you are posting”. In short—be credible, accurate, and respectful.

Although the school claims it doesn’t take action against slanderous postings, most students choose to play it safe.

“I’ve taken certain precautions with my profile […] Technically, I don’t use my legal name, so I feel as if no one could find me unless I wanted them to,” says fourth-year student Priya Chopra.

“I don’t post any pictures [depicting] drug use or excessive drinking,” says Danielle Elson, a third-year anthropology major.

“It’s the student’s responsibility to keep their profile clean,” says Tiffany Limgenco, a fourth-year CCIT major. “It’s for their own benefit.”

The same CareerBuilder survey found that 37% of employers do such a search before hiring—which was, surprisingly, down from 50% in 2010.

This isn’t to say that every employer is solely trying to discover the negatives. CareerBuilder also showed that 29% of employers found something they liked on a profile and offered jobs based on the positives.

A few years ago, I applied to a part-time retail job to make some extra cash. After the second interview, the store manager told me that before I was hired, I would need to accept their friend request on Facebook.

Luckily, I keep a professional profile with very few pictures or posts. However, I know plenty of people who neglect to delete party photos or strongly worded opinions from their accounts (but still make good employees).

The experience showed me the impact a person’s online presence can have on their future.

Forbes published an article earlier this year quoting Brad Schepp, the co-author of How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. He passed on the advice to “make sure any profiles you write are free of typos, the information is coherent and applicable to your industry [or job you’re trying to land], and your photos present you in a favourable light. You can verify the applicability of the information by checking profiles of others in the same field.”

He also advises that the material remain relatively consistent from site to site. “The story you tell on each site should be pretty much the same, although it’s fine to adapt the material for the site.”

Of course, we’re all passionate about certain topics and everyone likes to have fun with their friends. But if you’re looking for a job, think about holding off on swearing in your next tweet or deleting that sketchy photo from last year’s Halloween party.

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