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Online Profile Can Hurt Job Search

The Internet has become such an essential tool in our daily lives that most people can't imagine life without it. But while social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have given users greater ability to communicate to a wider audience, employment recruiters say it could also hurt their chances of getting, and in some cases, keeping a job.

From reconnecting with old friends to finding a job, social networking sites have revolutionized the way we interact. But many are unaware of the negative consequences of sharing too much information.

Teenagers are especially prone. Internet security expert Rik Ferguson is going through one student's Facebook profile in search of potentially risky content.

He told one student when viewing a Facebook picture, "That is definitely a kind of photo that might prejudice your chances in an interview."

For Ben, a student who appears to have had one too many drinks in the photo - it's an important lesson in privacy. "People can just take your information, they can be looking at your conversations, they can look at your pictures and if I want to delete that picture, someone may also have taken a copy of that without me knowing," the student said.

But even tech savvy users can forget that anything they post online could come back to haunt them.

Massachusetts teacher June Siple lost her job after posting negative comments about her students on Facebook. "I was frustrated one day and I thought I was sharing with just my friends. That was stupid, because I do have a lot of technology background and I should have checked it, so it was a stupid mistake," she said.

Rik Ferguson says the privacy issue is not limited to the Internet. "Even what we would consider privileged communication, one-to-one communication, even sending photographs, videos or SMS by mobile phone, we shouldn't consider that a one-to-one communication anymore because the object of a conversation has permanency that it previously didn't have," he said.

Because online information can be stored for many years, experts say attempts to erase a person's online trail are likely to raise doubts.

Employment recruiter Phil Lane says many employers are looking for consistency. "What they should do is make sure their profile online is consistent. If for instance they have different qualifications or different organizations on different online profiles, as a recruiter, I'm going to wonder what that's all about," he said.

Although current and potential employers may not look kindly at some photos or messages, recruiters say in some cases, having a full and active presence online may actually help. For example, a candidate looking for a career in advertising can show a grasp of communication and marketing techniques through their online activities.

Experts say the best advice is to treat anything you post online, as if the whole world is watching.