“It’s a small world”. A simple phrase the reflects the reality of life in the age of the Internet and social media.
In fact, the proliferation of social networking sites (SNS) has essentially rendered geography meaningless when it comes to information gathering and distribution, communication, even seeking employment. For many people, distance in no longer a function of location as much as it is a state of mind.
Of interest and potential concern to job seekers is the extent to which recruiters and employers use social media in making hiring decisions.
A recent study conducted by the consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison found that 48% of respondents to the online poll question “How active are you on social networking sites?” responded that they were very active on a daily basis. The same study reported that only 11% of respondent job seekers stated that they never use social networking sites.
Given these results, it should come as no surprise that over 35% of employers use social media to screen potential employees which, on closer inspection, actually seems a bit low. Why? Think about it.
We live in an age of almost complete and full access to whatever information we seek, along with the ability to disseminate whatever we choose to share about ourselves. We post status updates and photos to Facebook (which has over 1 billion users worldwide), instantly upload pictures to Instagram, tweet our thoughts (sometimes embarrassingly) to Twitter, and can use a wide variety of other SNS. Combine with this the fact that many professionals maintain a LinkedIn profile and you can see why employers and recruiters would avail themselves of the convenience of employment screening that social media provides.
The Lee Hecht Harrison report opines that social media will, likely in the not-too-distant future, become the primary method of sourcing and placing candidates. Of particular note:
Net effectiveness of social networking sites is up 51% over the past 2-3 years. And, net effectiveness is expected to jump another 68% over the next 2-3 years, an increase that leads all other methods for sourcing and placing candidates.
Clearly, it is imperative that you have an online presence if you hope to be discoverable to employers and recruiters. Your online profile should support and promote your personal brand. It is, however, critical to guard and defend your online reputation, your image, as it were, in order to protect against getting screened out of any potential job opening, something that usually occurs without your knowledge.
There are potential problems for employers and recruiters if they use social media inappropriately when screening job applicants but that topic is beyond the scope of this piece. Instead, let’s focus on how employers and recruiters actually use social media as part of the hiring process, primarily by trying to discover who you are by looking at your online persona.
Online persona: That person you share on social networking sites that may be the unvarnished version of you. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but what you do online can pose problems for your job search if you come across as someone very different than the person you present in an interview.
So, here’s how recruiters and employers use SNS when hiring employees:
Not at all. Considered by many to be the safest course of action.
Sourcing and resourcing. Not all employers use social media solely to screen or investigate potential employees. The Society for Human Resources Management recently reported that 76% of companies use or intend to use SNS to recruit new workers. Over half of the companies surveyed consider SNS an efficient and effective way to recruit.
You should be aware that employer utilization of SNS will likely increase, notwithstanding the potential legal issues. One could even argue that the potential consequences of the improper, inappropriate or illegal use of the results of searching social media when making hiring decisions is really not a problem at all.
Because an employer simply won’t disclose that its review of your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page or Twitter feed was one of the reasons that it didn’t hire you (and shame on you if it was the only reason!).
Facebook permits employers to establish an interactive online presence which reflects their brand, their mission, their products and/or services.
Twitter gives employers the ability to increase exposure on a minute-by-minute basis.
Posting anything on the Internet without reservation is not safe, especially if you’re relying on the concept of “they can’t do that” to protect you from the use of your online persona by an employer in declining to hire you. ”They can’t do that” is of no use to you if there’s no evidence they did “that” in the first place.
Screening and background checks. Assuming for our purposes that employers and recruiters engage in legal hiring practices, this is where what you say or share online can come back to haunt you.Because the concept of privacy on the Internet is, for the most part, illusory, you should review your online presence for the presence of anything that might render you an unsuitable employee. It may be something seemingly innocuous as typos in your posts or as objectionable as an inappropriate joke, a statement that may be controversial or an awkward, embarrassing or even inappropriate picture.