How social media can help or hurt getting into a top tier MBA program

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Everyone’s heard a story about someone losing a job or a business opportunity because of a rant, an unguarded comment or an inappropriate image placed on a social media site.

The use of poor judgment in social media can also hurt your chances of getting accepted into a top tier MBA program. Like prospective employers, admissions officers and committee members routinely Google candidates and visit their social media sites. But according to a recent article in Businessweek, a carefully crafted image on Facebook can also help your chances with members of the admissions committee.

But let’s be clear. Julie R. Barefoot, associate dean of admissions at Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, tells eFinancialCareers a great social networking site will not make up for the core factors of the candidacy: excellent grades, work experience and academic preparation.

Often, when members of admissions committees Google someone or check out their Facebook page, she says in a recent interview, they are looking for red flags.

That said, here are some things you can do to use your site to enhance your application – and to keep it from being a liability.

Showcase your community involvement

Ultimately, business colleges want students who will fit in with the culture of prospective employers, particularly large corporations and consulting firms. And many of these kinds of employers place a big emphasis on community involvement.

“We like to see candidates doing community service,” says Barefoot. “Sometimes candidates only focus on work things in the application.” But highlighting activities such as coaching a youth soccer team, coordinating a 5k run or pulling together a fundraiser for a cause such as cancer can make a favorable impression. “That tells me the candidate is making good use of his time,” she adds.

Keep your site professional

Everything on the site from the pictures to what you say about yourself should present you in the best light possible. Avoid posting updates about, say, the latest party you attended or your recent weekend pub crawl. “What is public information should be as professional as possible,” says Barefoot.

“The ideal Facebook profile is one that reflects your personality and interests but makes public only information you’d be happy to share with your boss,” Consuela Knox, senior associate director for Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, tells eFinancialCareers.

Imagine trying to impress a hiring manager

It’s important to keep in mind that the perspective of an admissions officer is similar to that of a hiring manager at a large company, says Barefoot. Adds Knox, “On Facebook, we can gauge someone’s personality and interests and use it to help determine fit. One of the main reasons that I check Facebook profiles as often as I can is because so many MBA hiring companies check profiles. While we train our current students on professionally managing their social media outlets, it is preferred that (they) demonstrate this professionalism prior to enrollment.”

Use your site as another platform to tell your story

Knox says candidates can improve their Facebook profiles by adding details about themselves that reinforce what’s on their application.

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