In most business schools across the United States, career guidance officers preparing their students to take on leadership roles in global businesses tell them that what they do online can make or break a job opportunity. It’s probably a bad idea to post that photo where you’re red-faced and drunk with friends, they say, even if it was someone’s birthday. But how early does the social media monitoring actually start?
A survey released today (October 3) by Kaplan Test Prep found that students’ social media profiles are screened much less frequently during the admissions process than believed. Only 40% of admissions officers in business schools told Kaplan that they checked out applicants’ social media pages — like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn — to learn more about them. The survey was conducted between August and September of this year, by reaching out to 162 business schools, including 34 of the top 100 as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.
While low, the chance that someone who has a say in whether you get that spot in your dream business school goes mining for information in your social media accounts has gone up over the years. Kaplan’s surveys in 2011 — the first year they began asking schools this question — revealed that just 22% of business school admissions officers examined social media posts.
One admissions officer told Kaplan that social media could be used to learn more about student’s work experiences, usually because “there’s often more on their LinkedIn than in their resume, including links to websites or videos or things they’ve been involved in.” Others said that things like community involvement and volunteer work matter, and sometimes, there just isn’t space on a resume to include these.
But in most cases, admissions officers said that social media profiles were used as a source of additional information when it came to students they were on the fence about, and needed more to tip the scales either way. So, if you think your social media profiles should all be private, remember they could sell a school on you.
“I think for us what helps is almost is what isn’t there. We don’t look for the positives; we look for red flags. So the absence of red flags is a positive impact,” an admissions officer told Kaplan.
In other cases, some admissions officers have also shared that poorly constructed and developed social media profiles can hurt an applicant’s chances. From poorly done LinkedIn profiles, to profiles that are not up-to-date or have spelling mistakes, schools take away whether s student is on top of their game, or cannot be bothered to care.
While most schools ask for a resume to be included in a student’s application submissions, LinkedIn is as important as the paper resume today, since it not only shares what you have done before and know, but also who you know, and who you follow. And for those who are one step ahead of the game, it’s time to begin creating your own followings on LinkedIn whether by sharing articles written by thought influencers, or by showing some originality and penning some pieces.
In a worst-case scenario, one admissions officer said they even found criminal conduct that had not been disclosed, which of course begs the question of why the person even thought criminal conduct was fit for social media. Gone are the days where what happens online stays online, and being online means being anonymous. Admissions officers make it clear that continuing to behave online like it doesn’t touch our everyday lives could prove to be a costly delusion.
Responding to Kaplan’s surveys, 71 percent of business school admissions officers say it’s “fair game” to visit applicants’ social media profiles, and not an “invasion of privacy that shouldn’t be done.”