Social media are on the rise, that much is for sure. But lately, employers (ranging from private companies and big multinationals to temporary work agencies) have picked up this trend and are using social media as a tool for recruitment and selection. And why not? If it helps them find the most suited person for a job opening it’s all good right? But what does that mean for you and your presence on social networks? Here’s what you should know.
First of all, social media encompasses a lot more than just Facebook and Twitter. Social media is everything from social networks such as Facebook to blogs, podcasts, video’s (YouTube for example). It’s a lot more than you’d expect, and just about everyone with an internet connection in the western world of connected to some kind of social media platform.
Recent studies have shown that 45% of employers screen their prospects and applicants through social media. It’s not hard at all to find someone on the internet once you have a name. Just head over to Pipl.com and type in your own name and see what comes up. I was surprised how much information I shared and still share on the internet. Now, 35% of employers who screen using social media reports that they refrained from hiring someone based on their findings. That’s a huge amount of people being turned down by something on their public profiles.
Going even further, people even got fired because of something they posted on Facebook or Twitter. Just look at this image or this video. Best advice here? Don’t add your boss or colleagues on Facebook/Twitter or make sure they can’t see what you write.
Now, before you go deleting all your accounts on whatever website you registered at, relax. Studies have shown that most employers only look at LinkedIn (95%), Facebook (58%) and Twitter (42%). So be careful what you post on there, keep private things private, adjust your privacy settings accordingly, sort colleagues in lists with limited access to your profile and whatnot. More on that later.
Employers don’t just use social media to ‘spy’ on applicants. Yes, I put that between brackets because once you post something on the internet it’s basically public knowledge and you can’t take it back. You can select all the privacy settings you want on social networking sites, but the fact is, if you post it, it has the potential to be seen by someone you don’t want seeing it. Employers also use social media to find new contacts, searching specific hard to find competences, headhunting and looking for passive candidates. Social media turns out to be a tremendous asset to businesses, and not just from an HR perspective. Think about all the marketing possibilities too.
Let’s circle back to recruitment for a minute. The types of people attracted through social media are mostly middle managers, senior managers and entry-level employees. The last category makes a lot of sense, because people using all kinds of social media are young people around 20 – 25 years old. Middle managers and senior managers often get headhunted through websites such as LinkedIn where they often have extensive profiles that details their education and experience (if you’re a professional of any kind you should be on LinkedIn).
There’s plenty of social media strategies for HR purposes and how it’s connected to other business units such as marketing and finance, but that’s not the side we want to look at (nor is it what you want to know, I’m sure). You want to know what all this means for you right? Well, quite a few things actually:
First of all, it means that you’re being looked at from various angles during the recruitment process. Whereas it used to be just interviews and resumes it’s now so much more. Employers have the chance to look into your private life and they might not like what they see there.
Secondly, this also means that you have to be very mindful about what you write on your wall and what you tweet. The best advice here would be to separate your private activities from your professional life. For example, don’t add colleagues or superiors on Facebook but add them on LinkedIn, a platform you use solely for professional purposes. Furthermore, adjust privacy settings to keep your profiles public. This is especially important for Facebook, as they tend to change stuff around without telling anyone so be sure to check your privacy settings regularly (Now, for example, as they recently overhauled it).
Even when you did all these things, there’s still stuff you DO NOT post about. EVER.
- Personal conversations (Private messaging is there for a reason)
- Social plans (Posting ‘Gonna get drunk tonight’ will not help you in any way)
- Don’t link social networks to each other. As I said, keep private and professional lives separate.
- (Sensitive) Company information
- Address and/or phone numbers
- Anything else you don’t want shared (Passwords, answers to secret questions, …)
Thirdly, be mindful of what e-mail address you use for which purpose. Again, the rule of thumb is use one for private purposes and one for professional goals (a recruiter does look at your e-mail so don’t use firstname.lastname@example.org).
Next, be careful what apps you give access to. Often people find that apps have a lot more access to their information than they thought. Be especially wary of third-party applications as you have no idea what they do with your information or who they’re selling it to (Personal information is among the highest valued resources these days and companies will pay top dollar for it).
Furthermore, untag every single photo of yourself in potentially negative situations. You have a photo where you’re lying on the ground in your own vomit with a bottle of vodka nearby? Untag! You don’t want to find your photo on Fail Blog’s ‘After 12′ section in a couple of years.
In regards to recruitment: don’t show a outspoken bias to any single company, it might prevent their immediate competition from even considering you as an employee.
And finally, don’t connect with everyone. This is true for professional purposes but also for private goals. Don’t add people you don’t know (it’s not the same for Twitter). Having 1245 Facebook friends doesn’t make you popular or interesting. It’s just more people that have access to more information than you could possibly want. Clean out your friend list regularly, that means either unfriending some people or putting them in lists with limited access.
There, that’s about all I can come up with right now. Please remember that you will make mistakes to these rules of thumb, I know I have … there’s no shame in it, just be mindful about what you do from now on. I hope I at least made you see the impact of social media on searching for a job nowadays. Don’t hesitate to share your comments in the comment section. Now, go untag those drunken photos!
Niels Van Hellemont
PS: I posted this a while ago on my other blog, but this is a far better medium for it.