It’s that time of year again when fresh-faced, young accounting students hit the “campaign trail,” as it were, and go hustling up a fantastic job to start once they graduate in the spring.

Ah, such an exciting time for everyone – showing off that nice new suit, practicing your recruiter small talk, working on your personal sales pitch.

But have you considered what happens when your potential employer starts Googling you?

Let me tell you a story that dates back to my days in CPA review. Our students would often add me on Facebook because, let’s face it, I’m fun to have as a “friend,” even if our relationship is strictly business.

One day, I get a call from one of our students who logged into his student account ready to study, only to find that his course had expired – as most do. In a panic, he called my direct line begging and pleading for more time on his course. “But, you see, I was in the hospital for three weeks and my dog got hit by a car and then my brother got sick. Oh, and my car was destroyed in a flood …” Basically he came up with any excuse he could, and I sat there patiently listening as he went through the laundry list of bad things that could happen to a person.

What he forgot was that we were friends on Facebook. So as he was rattling off reasons he couldn’t study for the last nine months – I mean really, how unlucky could one person be? – I was casually strolling through his many Facebook photo albums of a trip to Cancun, countless nights out with his boys, a couple Las Vegas excursions, even a few spare shots of him passed out on whatever street that was. Man, this guy was having more fun than I was, and there it was, laid out before me in perfectly organized photo albums and everything.

Long story a little less long, after he finished giving me excuses, I reminded him that not only did I see him having a blast on Facebook, I also knew exactly how many cows he had on certain Facebook-based farming games, how often he checked in at the gym over the last nine months, and how many times he passed out drunk in the street. Fact was, he had plenty of time to study; he simply chose not to.

Now, chances are your Facebook page is private – at least I hope it is – and you won’t be adding every recruiter or random CPA review employee you meet, and even if you do, they probably don’t care if you spend copious amounts of free time tending to a virtual farm. But what about Twitter? What about your “sportscarguyMD123” e-mail account you used to e-mail firms that you also use as a screen name on every Internet forum from car enthusiasts to “Maryland Right-Wingers for Sarah Palin.” (OK, I made that last one up. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.)

Many hiring professionals these days are torn about whether or not it’s cool to Google candidates, but as a person who used to participate in the hiring process, I assure you it’s safe to assume everyone is doing it. Or rather, you should behave as though it’s going to happen.

Here’s another example. Perhaps you heard about the recent kerfuffle involving, oh, a handful of CPA exam scores that weren’t released on the AICPA’s target date. While some candidates took this in stride, others took to social media – using their real names even – to not only complain but lob insults and profanity at exam administrators from NASBA and the AICPA.

Not cool, folks, not cool. Think about it for a moment: If you’re a public accounting firm, do you really want to hire the person prone to public social media outbursts over something as trivial as exam scores that were released a few days after the date promised? My first thought would be, “What is this person going to do considering so many confirmations go unanswered? Take to Twitter to complain?”

So while you’re preparing your personal sales pitch and picking out your professional attire this fall recruiting season, please also take a moment to clean up your social media footprint. As a general rule, if you don’t want your mom to read it, you don’t want your potential future boss to read it, either.

Of course, that doesn’t really apply if you have a mom like mine. We all know how I turned out.

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