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Facebook Profiles Become Handy Tool for Recruiters

By Jiao Wang

Join a group. Ever heard of People Mispronounce My Name a Lot, Bubble Tea Anonymous, Tsunami Relief Fund-Raising Dinner, or Poker Night 2005? More and more, the Facebook is becoming a standard part of MIT life and reshaping college landscapes around the country. But how many of us realize that faculty, staff, and potential employers are trespassing on student territory?

The Facebook was first created as an online social network for college students and as a means of self-expression. It was launched to the public on Feb. 4, 2004 by a Harvard sophomore named Mark Zuckerburg, and since then has expanded to high schools and hundreds of colleges.

In the beginning, students often opted to display their profiles only to confirmed friends or to members of their own school. Now, increasing numbers of students are opening up their entries to anyone with a Facebook account, sometimes making cell phone numbers, addresses and class schedules accessible with an online search or two.

The profiles and contact information on the Facebook are public knowledge. Although most faculty are happy to be divorced from student culture and are not interested making it a big part of their lives, a few do have real Facebook entries. These are usually ones who want to find out about student life and culture, said Charles H. Stewart, professor of political science and McCormick Hall housemaster.

“Almost every faculty member who has a Facebook entry understands students and would not be offended by its material,” Stewart said.

Assistant Director of Admissions Matthew L. McGann ’00 said he was first invited to join the Facebook by students. “There are a lot of people who knew me through admissions and blogs,” he said.

McGann’s friends are mostly students that he has admitted and old classmates from MIT. He said he would confirm just about anyone from MIT as his friend.

Physics Professor Eric Hudson also joined the Facebook because his students told him to.

“Often students have a very standoffish view of their faculty,” said Hudson. At the beginning of a term, Hudson uses the Facebook to look up the students in his 8.02T (Physics II) class. He said he does not investigate the private lives of his students.

Hudson said he faltered when he found out about the existence of the Eric Hudson Fan Club and said he did not look at its membership until after the term had ended. Stewart joined the Facebook because it was suggested to him by a faculty colleague. He said it is an interesting way to get to know students.

The fact that there are real faculty entries on the Facebook should remind students that there are other people besides students who are looking at their profiles, Stewart said. He cautioned that the Facebook is increasingly being used by employers to evaluate potential student employees. He said he helps students find jobs and internships and is interested in knowing how they present themselves to the outside world.

Sometimes, employers are simply curious about the people that they employ. Other times, they wonder whether a particular candidate would cause them embarrassment or problems in the workplace that they would have to deal with later on. According to Stewart, employers do not like to see evidence of vigorous partying or people not very well dressed or not dressed at all.

One employer that Stewart knows has her secretary look up everyone who applies for research positions there to see what sort of personality they have as a screening device.

Employers are looking for people who are relatively sensible, have a good sense of humor, creativity, and are well-rounded, Stewart said.

Stewart said that it is probably in the interest of some people to claim their own entry for themselves on the Facebook so people do not put up things harmful to them.

“No one wants to see unpleasant things about them in public,” he said.