Can Myspace cost you a job?


Elizibeth McKee never thought that belonging to a group on the online community site Facebook would ever cause her problems with an employer. However, when the University of Portland senior applied to lead a student activity staff last November the University discovered that McKee was a part of the Facebook group “Bush is a Fucktard,” a liberal anti-Bush group.

The University urged McKee to delete herself from the group, concerned that McKee’s membership in the group could offend prospective students. According to McKee, UP told her “other employers are going to be looking at this.  We’re getting you ready for the real world.”

McKee took the job, which was temporary, and has not deleted herself from the group. She also wrote a guest opinion piece about her experience for the Beacon, UP’s school newspaper, after her job was over.

“My profile to me is clean,” McKee said. “There are no pictures of me naked or drunk.”

Both Myspace and Facebook are popular and rapidly growing online communities that link friends, often serving as a primary forum of communication as both sites allow comments to be left on the user’s homepage and email-style messages to be sent between friends.  As of January 2006, Myspace was the seventh most-visited English language website in the world with over 50 million users.

“The issue revolves around the classic notion of what individuals are allowed to keep of theirs in a public space. Does a person have the right to protect their personal space when that space is public?” said Dr. Jamie Ross, a philosophy professor at PSU who studies Internet and privacy issues. “When it comes to the Internet, it isn’t clear.”

“Technology has really changed the way people look for work,” said Dee Thompson, Associate Vice President of Human Resources at PSU. “So much information is now readily available to anyone who cares to look for it. Some employers are using Facebook to determine if the student they interviewed is a viable candidate.”

Thompson added that employers might use Myspace and Facebook to give them a more informal look at a potential job candidate. The privacy statement on the Myspace home site states that a person’s “User Profile information including members’ pictures and first names are displayed to people in order to facilitate user interaction in the” and that “email addresses are used for the purposes of inviting new friends.”

Louise Padris, a career counselor at PSU said “students should assume anything posted by them on the internet will be read by somebody who may form an opinion.”

“Job seekers should be aware that that ‘somebody’ may be in a position to make a hiring decision,” she said. “If a person’s web persona is quite different than their interview persona, it could raise questions about how or whether the person will fit within the organization.”

Portland State student Rolando Avila is uneasy with employers basing their opinion on his Myspace page.

 ”I don’t think that an employer should be able to look at it and make an assumption,” Avila said. “I wouldn’t like it if they looked at mine because I set it up for my friends.” 

PSU student Josh Robbins is aware that information is readily available online and has considered that potential employers might peruse his Myspace account.

“I’m not worried about it,” Robbins said. “Myspace can be anonymous if you wish it to be.”