Recruitment Through Social Media – What You Should Know As An Applicant

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 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

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.


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The Expert’s Fallacy

I watched a TV show a couple of days ago called ‘Koppen XL’. It’s basically a documentary, and each week they tackle a different subject. This week the subject was ‘Do experts really have the expertise they lead us to believe?’. I thought this was very interesting because we’re being bombarded by experts from all sides. Nutrition experts, marriage councilors, wine tasters, management consultant and HR experts.


The funny thing that came forward in the documentary is that most experts are quacks and they know nearly nothing about their chosen subject. Furthermore, these so-called experts say things that are contradictory. For example, the one nutrition expert says that you need a healthy, large breakfast while the other one says that you should only eat a piece of fruit. And there are tons more of these ‘experts’ with other theories. Or wine taster who can’t taste the difference between red wine and white wine (with a drop of coloring fluid to make it look like red wine).

It’s the same in the human resources field. Just think about how many books there are about best practices, for example ‘in search of excellence’ written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr.. It’s one of the best-selling and most widely read business books ever.

Peters and Waterman found eight common themes which they argued were responsible for the success of the chosen corporations. The book devotes one chapter to each theme:

  1. A bias for action, active decision-making – ‘getting on with it’. Facilitate quick decision-making & problem solving tends to avoid bureaucratic control
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people- treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralized values.

In essence, they try to formulate a best way to do something which they illustrate by giving examples of companies. Their choice of companies was very poor though (NCR, Wang Labs, Xerox) as they did not achieve the excellent results the book promised.

What I’m really trying to say here is that there’s no one perfect solution that works for every organisation and that these so-called experts are really just people who ‘pretend’ to have the end-all-be-all solution. That point was emphasized by one of my teachers in college, and he’s right. That’s why copy-pasting HR policies or any other policy won’t work, sure you can use the basic framework but what worked for one company won’t necessarily mean it will work for yours.

Now, let’s circle back to the experts. The reality is that we pay experts because of their image and because we can then say ‘but the expert told us that this was the way to go’. In essence, to lend credibility to our decisions and actions.

Don’t get me wrong though, there really are some experts but it’s important that even they make mistakes (hopefully less than the ‘rookies’) and are often insecure. For me, I have my suspicions when someone says something with absolute certainty. ‘You HAVE to do this, This IS the way to go’. A real expert, in my eyes, is someone who questions himself, studies his environment and doesn’t shower everyone in technical terms to display his ‘expertise’.

In essence, I think you can’t really be an expert in the social sciences such as HR or psychology (or even economics, which isn’t an exact science either like they teach you in school)

You can trust me on this, I am an expert in the field of … uh … Well, never mind.

Niels Van Hellemont

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The Unemployment Conundrum

This article appeared on (loosely translated by me) :

In January 2012, the unemployment rate in the European Union rose by 0,1 percent to 10,1 percent. One year ago, the unemployment rate was 9,5 %. That same evolution is noticeable in the Eurozone: 10,7 % in January 2012, 10,6 %  in December 2011 and 10,0 % in January 2011. Belgium rose from 7,2 % to 7,4.

Eurostat estimates that the amount of unemployed workers in January in the EU27 at 24,325 million of which 16,925 in the Eurozone. That is an increase of 191.000 people in the entire European Union and of 185.000 people in the Eurozone as opposed to the month before. A year ago, the amount of people without a job grew by 1,488 million in the European Union (1,221 million in the Eurozone)

It seems like it’s always the same countries with the highest and lowest rate. The lowest unemployment rate was noted in Austria (4,0 %), The Netherlands (5,0 %) and Luxembourg (5,1). The highest was in Spain (23,3 %), Greece (19,9 %) and now Ireland and Portugal as well (both 14,8 %)

The unemployment rate between men and women is equally high this month. 10,1 % (last year men: 9,4 %, women: 9,6 %). In the Eurozone, the unemployment rate is higher for women (10,9 %) than for men (10,5 %). Unemployment among young people increased significantly: from 21,1 % a year ago to 22,4 % in the EU (from 20,6 % tot 21,6 %). In Spain (49,9 %) and Greece (48,1 %), every 1 in 2 young people don’t have a job; in Slovakia it’s 1 in 3.

The United States of America closed the month of January with an unemployment rate of 8,3 %. In Japan, this figure was 4,6 % in December.

Now, I know it’s a lot of figures and percentages but I find this very interesting. It shows how much impact the current economic crisis has in the European Union. Especially in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland which are the countries in the biggest immediate danger. Companies are going bankrupt, people lose their jobs and can’t find a new one because of cuts in the workforce budget. It’s pretty much a vicious circle in the sense that people losing their jobs have less money to spend which in turn is bad for the economy as a whole resulting in more budget cuts and savings.

I believe that the HR department of companies can, in cooperation with the governments, have a large impact on the rising unemployment rate. Companies and governments should work together to draw more people back to the workplace by motivating them, cutting social security or lowering salary costs.

Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Especially in Belgium where so many people rely on our social security system for (temporary) unemployment, pensions and illness. Though, I believe that we could do with some sanitation. For instance, there are (to my knowing, ie. Not funded in figures) quite a lot of people who get money from our social security because they’re unemployed but have no desire to work anymore. Why should they? They get money for doing nothing, in some cases even more than they’d get if they had a job (usually a low educated demographic, and thus less motivated because those jobs often don’t have a lot of intrinsic rewards). We should try to encourage those people to go out and find a job again (and there a job enough for everyone really, it’s just that some jobs are seen as bad or below their standards.

And I don’t mean offering more salary. I’m talking about intrinsic motivation and non-salary benefits.

Furthermore, the social security system we have in Belgium is becoming unaffordable because there’s more people retiring and living longer than there are new entrants to pay for those pensions. We’ll all have to work longer than we do now (the average age for retirement in Belgium is only 58), and that’s fine by me. But I know a lot of people who are against this measure and are doing everything they can to retire now, or work fewer hours straining the system even more.

I feel that I can’t offer any concrete solutions for this problem, as it has many facets and issues to consider and I’m in no way an expert in that area. I do, however, believe that the solution is for companies, non-profit government organizations  and governments to work together to tackle this problem. And yes, this will require an investment from all parties.

In any case, I fear that we haven’t seen the end of this yet …


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Things HR Never Says Out Loud

The HR department has been a thorn in the side of many a CEO and seen as a nuisance by employers en employees alike. It seems that HR is constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or so they teach us in college anyway.

The human resources department fulfills a crucial role in the organisation (as does any department I should add). Perhaps the most apparent activity we, as HR, fulfill is recruitment and selection. We make sure that new talent and skills keep flowing into the organisation.

Because recruitment and selection is one of the oldest and most important of HR activities we have become well-versed in reading and evaluating applicants by looking at their application letters, their resumes and during face-to-face meetings. There are, of course, things that we don’t tell applicants. In light of this, 10 American HR-professionals recently spoke freely in Reader’s Digest about their own recruiting-experiences. They mentioned things that you should pay attention to when applying for a job and things that recruiters pay attention to. Read the list below:


‘When you’ve been unemployed for over 6 months, you’re seen as incompetent or inadequate. We assume, unconsciously, that more than one employer have turned you down.
– Cynthia Shapiro, former HR-executive and author of ‘Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know’

This quote might seem quite blunt, but maybe she’s just being honest. Make sure you have an explanation for that ‘hole’ in your resumé! This is something I’ve experienced as well, gaps in a resumé without any proper explanation. And it doesn’t look good, I can tell you that.


‘When talking about job applications, your network is very important. No matter how great your cv is, or the amount of experience you gathered. Connections are everything.’
– HR-director at a health organisation

This quote bothers me a bit personally, because I’m still at an entry-level and thus I don’t have any real, professional connections yet and a very limited experience. Especially in the current economic situation this might pose a problem as most job openings I read requests at least 2-3 years of experience.

Avoid HR

‘If you have a specific company in mind to work for, try to avoid the HR-department as much as possible. Try to gain access to the company through an acquaintance.’
– Shauna Moerke, HR-administrator and blogger on

I can relate to this statement. Many spontaneous applications get lost in a heap of paperwork never to be seen or used again. Also, many companies have a sort of refer-a-friend policy which increases your chances.

The danger of the email address

‘From an email address we can discern who you are, and you will be judged on that. Anyway, you promote prejudices by using a childish address such as’
– Rich DeMatteo, recruiter consultant in Philadelphia

It’s true, even if you don’t want it to be I can assure you of that. If you’re a recruiter you will make a mental note of their email address if it is a childish one. Word to the wise: make an account just for professional contacts.

Key words

‘HR often uses systems who track key words. The secret to getting your resumé through the system is by copying the keywords from the job profile. The more matches, the larger the chance that your resumé will stand out and gets read by an HR-professional’
– Chris Ferdinandi, HR-professional in Boston


‘Resumes don’t need colour to stand out. With a bit of colour my smile disappears and an overdose of colour makes me cry. And going by the company to drop off your resumé is not done, it’s even frightening.’
Rich DeMatteo

I’m afraid I have to disagree here. A little bit of colour makes everything more pleasant to read (No, I don’t mean flashy pink text but some light colouring to highlight titles and headings). Moderation is key here though, it needs to stay light and readable.

That pretty much concludes the article I read and my views on it. I didn’t include everything from the article but I chose the ones that were the most interesting. I do have one more point to add here. A lot of applicants use template resumes, and it shows because it looks very standard and shows no creativity or individuality.It only takes a small amount of effort to personalize your resumé, and adjust it to match the job opening you’re applying for.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed the read and stay tuned for more!



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A New Beginning

People say that good ideas come to you in the shower, and turns out they’re right. A couple of days ago, while in the shower I came up with writing a blog about Human Resources. Now why would I come up with that you ask? Well, I’m an HR student in Belgium and as a result I’m highly interested in HR. I try to keep up with my literature on the subject and I noticed that there’s a lack of students writing about Human Resources. In a way, that’s very normal. It’s not the most popular study subject in college and universities. Secondly, one needs a certain degree of experience in the field before being able to contribute something useful.

However I believe that young, budding HR professionals do have something to contribute because we can look at things with fresh eyes. So with those reasons in mind I’m going to try and give my thoughts on current events, articles I read, etc. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, hence the name of the blog as well. A ‘padawan’ is a term from Star Wars. It refers to a student of the Jedi arts, in essence it’s someone who’s still a bit green behind the ears.

Now, time for some background information. As I said before I’m still a student. My name is Niels Van Hellemont, I’m turning 22 this Fall and I live in Belgium, Flanders to be more precise. I study a Bachelor after Bachelor in Advanced Business Management – Human Resources Management (Quite a mouthful, I know) at the Katholieke Hogeschool in Leuven. Before that, I attained a Bachelor in Office Management at the same university college. My hobbies include reading, watching movies and tv series, blogging and playing video games. That’s pretty much all you need to know, I’ll construct a page with more information and one for contact details should you want to get in touch with me.

That’s all for now, check back soon!


PS: Here, have a funny picture:

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