If you’re applying for business school, you should make sure your Facebook profile is squeaky clean; admissions officials might check you out online to see whether you’re professional.
And if you need help, consulting firms are making a pretty penny specializing in online imagecontrol. One consulting firm called MBA Exchange has begun to offer a social media audit to prepare applicants for surprise Google and Facebook searches, according to Fortune.
They comb the Internet for any inappropriate content and scan your social media personas to make sure your friends haven’t left a rogue f-word on your wall, or an otherwise embarrassing comment on a photo buried deep in your vacation album from 2008.
The Managing Director of the MBA Exchange, Dan Bauer, says he came up with the idea last year after visiting with several admissions officials at the nation’s top business schools. He said:
We realized there is a growing trend among B-schools to go beyond the submitted application by also exploring a candidate’s social media profile,” says Bauer. “The admissions staff wants to see how future MBAs present themselves on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
So how common is it for an admissions official look you up on Facebook? Harvard Business School allegedly confirmed it conducts web searches on applicants. However, most business schools do not pre-screen applicants’ online profiles unless something seems a little off in their application. Stanford said the same thing: they don’t systematically review social media sites of every applicant, but they could look you up if they wanted.
So far, Bauer says that his firm has uncovered several goof ups by current applicants to several top-tier MBA programs, including Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and Columbia. Here are some pretty funny examples, according to the article.
- An applicant had featured photos on Flickr of himself proudly posing in front of a shop in Amsterdam’s infamous red-light district.
- An applicant had boasted on Facebook of his six-figure winnings from online poker — adding, with a smiley-face emoticon, that he had not yet declared this on his income tax return.
- An applicant had Tweeted in favor of legalizing street drugs.
- An applicant had Tweeted inappropriate comments about Haitian earthquake victims.
- An applicant’s blog had featured a music playlist including several highly obscene titles.
Bauer’s firm charges anywhere from $4,300 to almost $7,000 to run an audit. He said he plans to offer his services on an “a la carte basis priced at $495” later this year. Even at the reduced price, it seems like a lot to pay for something that common sense could help you figure out for free — especially if you make use of privacy settings.
On the other hand, this does seem like a captive market for the consultants. MBA programs have much stricter standards than admissions for other types of schools more closely resembling professional recruiting than academia, so it makes sense that the business schools would seek out additional information about their candidates on a case-by-case basis.
What do you think about the examples Bauer’s firm dug up? If you were to apply to an MBA, would your profile stand up to scrutiny?