The time-honored practice of interviewing job candidates is all very well in terms of assessing individuals’ qualifications, skills and abilities, and it can also be a useful way to get a glimpse at the personalities of prospective new hires. If you were looking to take on a new employee though, wouldn’t you just love to get down and dirty and find out what your candidates are really like when they’re not on their best behavior? Actually, that’s precisely what the majority of recruiters are doing already with the help of the social media sites that are so popular today.
What originally started off as a great new way to reconnect with old friends, stay in touch with current ones and make a whole host of new contacts has burgeoned into one of the favourite methods of communication for literally hundreds of millions of people around the world. Facebook alone has more than 750 million active users, half of whom log into the site on any given day. For recruiters, social media sites such as this have turned out to provide a unique opportunity to take a sneaky peak into the “secret” lives of their prospective new hires, but what they are finding isn’t always to their liking.
For many users, sites such as Facebook are like windows to their souls. Everything from the education and work details, activities and interests and personal philosophies which appear on their profiles, to the status updates that they post to their walls, all help to build up a picture of who they are as individuals. In the eyes of recruiters, their photos, meanwhile, often act as categorical proof of how they choose to live their lives when they are not “pretending” to be hard-working, responsible members of society, and boy can some of them tell a story!
Although sites such as LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional networking site, tend to attract more formal content, where many job seekers come unstuck with Facebook, Twitter and the like is in viewing them as casual environments which could be of no possible interest to prospective employers. Little do they think, therefore, of the potential damage that they do to their job prospects each time they (or one of their friends) post a photo in which the red-eye has nothing to do with the camera flash or the two-fingered salute definitely isn’t the symbol for peace, when they “Like” the page for Cannabis, when they describe their “messy” nights out on their profile updates or when they change their username to John ‘Junky’ Smith.
Nowadays, it’s not only recruiters themselves who are looking for dirt on their job candidates. Whole businesses are springing up which offer to screen social media posts on behalf of employers, and these companies don’t just look at what candidates themselves are posting online, but also at who their friends are and what other people are saying about them. In fact, not all are even restricted to checking out potential hires. Some provide their services in relation to existing employees, and if that sounds like an infringement of some kind of personal right, then think again because when you post something online, you effectively put it in the public domain where anyone has the right to access it.
Today’s job market is a tough one and even those job seekers who have squeaky clean images are in many cases struggling to find work. If you do nothing else today, therefore, sit down at your computer, run your name through as many search engines as you can think of and go through all of your social media profiles to check that whatever can be seen by recruiters presents you in a professional light. If there is anything that is likely to cause raised eyebrows, then delete it, or at the very least ensure that your privacy settings only make your content visible to your online friends. Don’t forget though, that if, for example, you are tagged in an embarrassing photo in a friend’s album, if that friend’s profile is open for the world to see, a recruiter can still find it. If that doesn’t sound very likely, then consider a situation where that friend has recommended you for a position. If the recruiter can’t see your profile, he or she might very well choose to check you out via your friend’s account instead.
Social media sites can be incredibly useful personal communication tools and they can also be a lot of fun. For job seekers they can even represent a superb way to market their personal brands to prospective employers. Just remember though, that it’s up to you to control what others can see, so if you want to make the best possible impression, be sure to clean up your social media act now!