Employers—and the occasional student—are finding Facebook can provide a glimpse of the reality beyond the interview

By Gerry Boyle '78


Facebook for Dummies

What is it?
Social networking site, with more than 14 million users, second only to MySpace. Anyone can join but primarily used by college and high school students.

Who started it?
Begun in 2004, when founder Mark Zuckerberg was an undergraduate at Harvard.

How widespread?
In a recent survey, Facebook placed second to the iPod in popularity with college students. (Beer tied with Facebook.)

Who can have a profile?
Anybody, but users are segmented by company, region, or school. To be grouped with a college or school, you need an e-mail address issued by that school.

What do you get?
A place to profile yourself: college, class year, interests, favorite music, books, movies. Also offers a place to post public messages or send private notes. Profiles give you unlimited space to post photos,of the weekend‰s parties, your semester abroad, your roommate, your messy dorm room, or anything else.

Who can see your stuff?
Anyone at your college or, depending on privacy settings you control, anyone who is friends with you or anyone who is friends with someone who is friends with you.

Profiles include a list of your ,friends.Š Often they number in the hundreds. Facebook ,friendsŠ are not necessarily the same as real friends. Often they‰re more like acquaintances you don‰t dislike. [Users collect them like people used to collect postcards.]

How does that work?
Let‰s say you go to a party and meet a student from across campus or from another college. The next morning, that student, procrastinating before writing her English paper, checks out your Facebook profile. She clicks on the icon that says she wants to be your friend. She has ,friendedŠ you. If you accept, she‰s added to your list, and vice versa.

Isn‰t ,friendŠ a noun?
Not anymore.

Why do I feel so old?
Because this is Facebook. Probably you are.

Sources: facebook.com, mashable.com
45%#This was a recent development in the constantly evolving world of online socializing, in which young people (older readers, see sidebar) profile themselves on a Web page and then create a web of "friends.— Facebook is part diary, part documentary, part communications hub—and, increasingly, a quick and easy way to peek into someone's life.

Employers, especially in the 20-something-heavy industries of technology and finance, have figured this out, and students like Tufts, weighing job options as graduation looms, have figured out that employers have figured it out. Facebook and sites like it are now recognized as a way for people other than just friends to glimpse the person behind the formal persona.

"It's hard to tell what someone's really like in an interview,— said Harrison Wreschner '03, now with a New York hedge fund but until last year an analyst at the investment house Bear Stearns. "Everyone's had career counseling. Everyone puts up a façade.—

Wreschner and Michael Henderson-Cohen '04 were the unofficial Colby team at Bear Stearns, where Cohen is an associate. Because Bear Stearns has no official recruiting presence at Colby, Wreschner and Henderson-Cohen, who were supported in their job hunts by Colby alumni, took it upon themselves to review résumés, to do initial phone interviews, and to talk to human resources about candidates they thought would be competitive.

In that process, Henderson-Cohen, like many of his colleagues, sometimes takes a look at a candidate's Facebook page. While he stressed that it's unlikely that a Facebook page would have much bearing on whether an applicant is hired, he's hardly alone in taking a peek.

According to a recent poll by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than a quarter of organizations acknowledged that they checked out candidates by Googling them or skimming their profiles on social networking sites. In the high-tech sector, it was nearly half.

That's no surprise for students like Jon Forsythe '07.

An economics major and football player, Forsythe was in an airport waiting for a flight to take him on his semester abroad last spring when his cell phone rang. It was Henderson-Cohen at Bear Stearns. Forsythe had applied for a summer internship, and his strong grades, solid résumé, and presence during initial phone interviews had impressed the Colby alums.

They called to tell him as much, and during the conversation Henderson-Cohen noted that he had looked at Forsythe's Facebook profile and had seen a silly photo of Forsythe being kissed playfully by his girlfriend.

"They thought I'd be a fun guy to hang out with,— Forsythe said.

The conversation was pleasant. But along with an article about Facebook and employers that was circulated to players by Football Coach Ed Mestieri, it did get Forsythe thinking—and prompted him to take a closer look at his Facebook page. "I just kind of cleaned up my profile,— he said.

A photo was removed (not the kiss). "I even changed my interests in the books,— he said. "I put Econometrics [Using Econometrics: A Practical Guide] as my favorite book.—

What was it before?

"I don't know. Jurassic Park or something. Less mature stuff.—

While Forsythe may have cleaned up his Facebook profile later, the image of him as a fun guy didn't detract from his strength as a candidate.

"We definitely didn't look down on the fact that he liked to have fun at school—and still could maintain good grades,— said Henderson-Cohen. "That's definitely the kind of candidate you want to see. It's all about balance.—

What would set off alarm bells?

"Excessive alcohol use or things that don't relay a sense of responsibility that you might be trying to portray in trying to land a job,— Henderson-Cohen said. In fact, he had just heard from a colleague at another Wall Street firm about a candidate who had photos of himself on his profile engaging in illegal drug use. That application was tossed.

But regular college socializing is another matter, Henderson-Cohen said.

"I think it's only normal to see those kinds of photos because that's what college life is like,— he said. And while smart, hard-working students are sought after, the strongest candidates also have social skills and lives. "I would notice,— he said, "if all the pictures were from the library.—
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