That photo of you and your drunken friends, which was posted on Facebook, may stop you from being hired to work for your favorite company. So can those mean comments you retweeted, and those anti-government buddies who show up as friends, followers, and connections on various social media sites.
You may think that your social media activities are your personal business. You’re wrong. A 2013 survey of employers by Jobvite found that 94 percent of respondents use social media to both find and vet candidates.
A more extensive 2012 survey by CareerBuilder queried 2,303 hiring managers and human resource staff to determine the role of social media in their hiring processes. CareerBuilder found that a significant number of them actively search a candidate’s social media profiles, and many use this information to make hiring decisions. For example:
65% want see if the applicant displays professional behavior
51% want to see if the applicant would be a good fit with the company
45% want to learn more about the applicant/qualifications
And perhaps the most important statistic:
34% stated that they discovered information that caused them not to hire the applicant
This information ranged from discriminatory comments regarding race, religion or gender, to evidence of alcohol and/or drug use, to derogatory comments about a previous employer, to evidence those applicants lied about their qualifications.
And for those who don’t think that social networking should have any bearing on job-search efforts, the research is against you. A 2012 study conducted at Northern Illinois University and published in the “Journal of Applied Social Psychology,” found that a person’s Facebook profile can predict job performance.
The researchers scanned 274 profiles for roughly 5 to 10 minutes each and projected the jobs success rate of each person. Six months later, the researchers studied the performance reviews for 25 percent of the subjects, and the reviews were right on target with the predictions of job performance.
But university researchers aren’t the only people quickly scanning digital profiles to predict career success. Hiring managers, interviewers, and recruiting firms are also quickly sizing up applicants based on social media data. It’s important to know what makes you an attractive applicant, and what can disqualify you from receiving a job offer.
What Employers Are Looking For
An analysis of a second Jobvite survey reveals that there are five major social media blunders that raise red flags with employers:
-Posts and tweets about experiences with illegal drugs
-Posts and tweets that are sexual in nature
-Posts and tweets that contain profanity
-Pictures of the applicant drinking
On the other hand, employers are impressed by two activities in particular:
-Membership in professional organizations
A Practical Example
In an interview with the University of Utah Career Services, Brad Jensen, the VP of Marketing & Communications for Alliance Health, stated that his company actively checks the social media sites of applicants to see if there is anything online that would disqualify them. Jensen says he looks at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram because he needs to know if the applicant’s public image will be a liability to his company. Besides that, Jensen says he’s checking to see if the applicant is using social media as a professional or as a seventh grader.
If he’s hiring a writer, Jensen says he wants to know that the applicant uses complete words like “you,” instead of “u,” and “to” instead of “2.” In addition, he wants to see if applicants are posting work samples on their profiles, and commenting on stories about current events, politics, or other information that would indicate that this is a well-rounded candidate. Jensen is less impressed when he sees posts about an applicant’s “undying love for a vampire, silly memes, snarky Mean Girls content, or pictures of your lunch and boots.”
What About Your Right To Privacy?
The most important right that you can exercise is the right to refuse to jeopardize your career opportunities by engaging in online tomfoolery and shenanigans. Aside from that, it’s prudent to ensure that your social meeting settings only allow your friends to view potentially offensive or embarrassing content. It would also be a good idea to just remove any questionable material. However, this, in itself may raise red flags with interviewers. They may wonder what you’re hiding, and exactly how potentially embarrassing or offensive was the information that you felt compelled to delete it.
Also, failing to have any type of social media presence at all may cause potential employers to question your ability to effectively communicate, interact and work with others – traits that are vitally important in most jobs.
Believe it or not, some interviewers have been known to actually ask applicants for the passwords to their social media sites. This practice is illegal in several states, such as California, Maryland, Delaware, Oregon, Washington, and Illinois. However, in April 2013, a national amendment to the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act that would have made this illegal in every state was defeated in the House of Representatives.
So, for those who live in a state where it’s perfectly legal to ask for private passwords, there are two options. Applicants can comply with the request and then change the password when the interviewers have finished snooping through their content. Or they can refuse to supply the passwords – which may or may not disqualify them as an applicant.
The Good News
However, using social media as a tool of recruiting and vetting has also had a positive effect. For example, 33 percent of the Jobvite survey respondents stated that it reduced the amount of time spent searching for, interviewing, and selecting candidates. That’s also good news for applicants, who are in an extended state of uncertainty during long, drawn-out employment processes. Also, 49 percent of companies stated that social recruiting improved the quality of candidates, 43 percent said it improved the quantity of candidates, and 32 percent said it improved both the quality and quantity of employee referrals.
To ensure that you’re perceived as one of those quality candidates, make sure that your social media profiles accurately reflect your talents and skills in a professional manner. If you don’t have a LinkedIn page, you need to create one ASAP, and ask some coworkers, clients, and others with whom you’ve had business dealings to post references on your profile page. Also, consider joining some of the LinkedIn professional groups, and be sure to participate in group discussions.
Your objective is to present a portrait of a well-rounded, intelligent applicant that any company would be pleased to hire. In the twenty-first century, your digital image is the first impression, and you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
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