Detroit startup grades social media for job-seekers
In a social media-dominated world, new tools are being created to help combat how future employers perceive you based off of your posts. The Social U targets students looking at colleges and jobs and helps them identify potential problematic photos and text.
Julie Fisher founded the Detroit-based startup after she spent a majority of her time in education. She began to notice that parents were afraid of the internet and what their children were posting because they didn’t grow up in the same technological environment.
“What parents or counselors often say is, ‘Don’t post anything inappropriate,’ but nobody really shows you what’s appropriate versus what’s inappropriate and explains to you why,” Fisher said. “And that’s what we do.”
An algorithm identifies posts that have the potential to be flagged with content that includes alcohol, drugs, sex, hate and symbolism, Fisher said. The service is free for users.
“You remember what you did last week or even last month, but it’s hard to remember what your 14 or 15 year old self posted,” she said.
Speaking to the point of potentially troublesome social media posts, MSU alumna and The Social U’s social media coordinator Katie Kieft said she went through the same panic when job searching after college.
“Looking back now, I definitely made a lot of mistakes with my social media when I was graduating,” Kieft said.
She described social media in college as a bubble: the only people users interact with are their own age and are partaking in the same activities they are.
Her response to this dismay was to make herself invisible to the social media world completely.
“Putting yourself at completely private in that way, like I did, is actually going to do yourself a disservice because a lot of employers are actually using social media to find reasons that they should hire you,” Kieft said. “They like to see how you are going to represent their brand.”
Advertising senior and career peer adviser for MSU Career Services Courtney McClear recommends the “grandma rule.”
“Anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see, don’t post it on the internet,” she said.
Although McClear said she’s never spoken to an employer who hasn’t hired someone because they didn’t have social media, she warned that once something is posted to the internet, it’s there forever.
Users have the option to connect their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr accounts to The Social U program. Once the scan is complete, they receive a 4.0 scale report card based on the findings.
“It was a tool that I created with education in mind,” Fisher said. "Over the course of the last year, we realized that for us, it’s more important that young people are educated, so we took the fee off of it."