The Facebook phenomenon

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Putting yourself about on social networking sites? Make sure you don't get egg on your face.

Oxford University is not the only place using social networking sites to check up on people. Research by financial services recruitment firm Joslin Rowe suggests 20% of employers now use the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn to check on people before they hire them. The main things that put would-be employers off candidates using such sites (LinkedIn probably excepted) include references to drug use, nude photographs and lewd jokes.

But if you can suppress the urge to tell the one about the Chinese man and the Dutch sheep, social networking sites may turn out to be quite useful. The head of European recruiting at one US bank says his American counterparts already use them to source candidates for jobs.

European financial services recruiters are doing it too. Adrian Kinnersley, head of the financial services practice at recruitment firm Astbury Marsden, says they source candidates for jobs in M&A, capital markets and private equity from the likes of LinkedIn. It does help if you've studied something along the lines of an MBA and belong to a large group: "If you're an INSEAD MBA you'll probably be connected to all the other INSEAD MBAs in your year. A lot of people invite recruiters to join their groups, making it possible for us to contact you directly," Kinnersley says.

And what about dubious photos and Bernard Manning-style humour? Kinnersley says bankers don't go in for such things: "Anyone with an ounce of common sense isn't going to put dodgy photos on their page."