Be careful who you ‘friend’

A third (33%) of Australian employees say that they are comfortable being ‘friends’ with their boss on social networks, according to the latest Workplace Survey from the specialist finance and accounting recruitment firm Robert Half International. But, while social media can be a great networking tool, jobseekers and employees should be aware that employers are increasingly checking them out on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

The survey of 416 finance and accounting professionals and hiring managers in Australia found that over a third (36%) of Australian employers admit to checking potential candidates’ Facebook profiles before offering them the job.

“Given this reality, candidates need to be aware of their social media “footprint” when applying for jobs,” said Andrew Brushfield, Director at Robert Half. “As a general rule of thumb, if there is anything online that employees don’t want their colleagues or bosses to see, they should remove it.”

Robert Half’s Workplace Survey also revealed that social media can cause problems within the workplace. Indeed, over a third (36%) of surveyed employees have seen the use of social networking sites negatively impact other people’s workplace relationships.

Despite this, nearly two thirds (63%) of Australian employees are comfortable being connected to colleagues on personal social networking sites; a third (34%) are comfortable being connected to people they manage; and 22% are even comfortable being connected to their clients.

“While social media has helped foster a more interactive and sociable working environment, it is completely blurring the boundary between people’s personal and professional lives. Before people ‘friend’ their bosses, colleagues and clients, they need to think about the long-term implications it could have on their professional life and career development,” Brushfield added.

According to Brushfield, social media can also present risks for a company’s reputation too, if not managed responsibly.

The Robert Half Workplace Survey found that only 38% of Australian finance and accounting professionals said that their company currently has a clear social media policy in place for employees. By comparison, 43% of companies that do allow their staff to access social media sites at work either don’t have a clear social media policy in place, or don’t have a policy at all.

“All organisations should have a clear social media policy to ensure that their staff use social media appropriately at work, and don’t damage the company’s corporate reputation,” he said.

Andrew has the following tips to help workers and jobseekers manage their Facebook presence:

1.    You’re tagged in an embarrassing photo. Untag yourself and change your privacy settings so photos can only be seen by your close friends.

2.    You’re ‘friended’ by someone you don’t want to connect with. It might be best to accept friend requests from colleagues to avoid offending them, but add them to a ‘work’ list and adjust your privacy settings so you can effectively separate your professional life from your personal life.

3.    You’re considering ‘friending’ your boss. It may seem like a natural extension of amiable office small talk, but think twice before proactively ‘friending’ your boss. It could become awkward for both of you.

4.    You want to join various groups. You should join groups that interest you. But if you have colleagues in your network and don’t want them to see the groups you join, remember to adjust your privacy settings.

5.    You would like to be a fan of certain pages. Becoming a fan of pages on Facebook is visible to anyone who can view your profile, so you should avoid becoming a fan of any page you are uncomfortable sharing with colleagues or business contacts in your network.

6.    You love games. Stop and think for a moment before playing certain social network games and posting the results to your Facebook page – do you want professional contacts to know about the new cow you’ve purchased on FarmVille?

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