Believe it or not, more than 75% of college students may be using Facebook in a way that will damage their opportunities for a job after they graduate, based on a recent study of 400 students attending a sample of 100 colleges and universities in the United States.

The research revealed that several key features of Facebook were found to display information — text or photos — that if not carefully thought through, could convey an image or character traits that most employers do not want in a prospective employee.

Our research examined the primary photos that students use as their identity, a sample of other photos in their album, status updates, organizations that they belong to, and events that they are encouraging others to attend. We found that 76% of the students had something that an employer might find offensive. We did not look at all the material on the students’ sites and we did not include an examination of the photos of friends, which can be an issue for some people. Based on these factors, the 76% number is probably on the low side of problem material likely to be found on college students’ Facebook pages.

Summary of Overall Findings*

Facebook Levels of Appropriateness 76% of all Facebook profiles were judged inappropriate and may cost a student a job opportunity!

Facebook Feature % Inappropriate
1. Status Updates 47%
2. Primary Photo 22%
3. Photo Sets 47%
4. Organization Membership 29%
5. Event Attendance 37%
6. Any Feature Among All
Five Features Combined

*Sample based on 400 college students’ Facebook profiles across 100 colleges

Key Takeaways for Facebook Users

? Remove all material — particularly photos and status updates — that does not present you in a professional manner.

  • Check your security settings to confirm that no one other than your friends can access information that you prefer to keep private. Recheck these settings often because privacy policies at Facebook may change and impact your settings.
  • Search yourself on all major search engines (such as Google) to identify information about you that appears in the results.
  • Consider maintaining your Facebook pages under a name or nickname that you provide only to your friends and other people that you trust. This will make it more difficult for others to find you on Facebook unless you want to be found.
  • Arrange for a Google alert based on your name. You may find that others are posting material about you that you need to request be removed.
  • Ask your friends to remove photos of you that are a problem.