Why Your Next Employer Is Prying Into Your Social Media Profiles

Let’s say you logged to your Facebook to find you have 30 notifications. It is your friends liking and commenting on a photo you shared about the party you had at your house over the weekend. The comments are your usual ‘looking good’ ‘looking young’ ‘what your secret’ variety, because this is Facebook and the unwritten Comments’ Rule states, “Thou shall not tell your friend the truth that the mirror can tell them.”

Then there is the Memories notification. Facebook wants you to look back to some memories of yesteryears. Apparently Mark Zuckerberg assumes that we need to remember everything that we ever did in the past. Even that rant about your boss from five years ago, to which you tagged a couple of your friends. The rant pops up as a memory for the friends you tagged. They take the trouble to retag you (think of it as returning a favor) to your own memory with a comment, “Hey, remember this?” Of course you remember the rant. So you do the obligatory LOL emoji because of that other unwritten Facebook Rule: “Thou shall not ignore a post that you are tagged to.”

All innocuous stuff, right? May be not. Increasingly there are good reasons to be mindful of your social media image and your digital footprint as a whole.

According to a social media survey conducted in June 2017 by CareerBuilder, a whooping 70% (that’s right, seven in ten!) of recruiters and HR professionals indicated that they look into a candidates social media profiles when recruiting or considering the person for a position. That is up 10 % from the 2016 figure of 60%. What more, recruiters are not restricting their ‘snooping’ to LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. 69% say they use Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to research on potential employees.

That means that a blog post or an online heated discussion on a political issue can be unearthed by a potential employer. The internet presents employers with wealth of information and they can learn a lot about candidates they are head-hunting or whom they are considering for hire. Gone are the days when the only information an employer had access to was the resume or curriculum vitae and recommendations from references. With a few clicks, a recruiter now has information that gives insight into other aspects of a candidate such as their character, interests, and professionalism, all of which goes into determining whether the candidate would be a good fit for the organization.

So, what exactly are employers looking for? According to the CareerBuilders survey, nearly two thirds are looking for information that is supportive of the candidates qualification. 50% of the employers are interested in knowing if a candidate has a professional online persona. LinkedIn profiles tend to be professional, but a lot of people do not pay as much attention to other social media profiles. You should, especially if you are in the job market.

Well, what about that one friend with no social media presence? Or the one with a Facebook account that is pretty much dormant, except once a year when all the friends post a Happy Birthday message? They are safe, right? Wrong! Turns out that that might not be a good idea. In a similar survey conducted in 2016, 30% of recruiters said they want to see what other people were posting about the candidate. If you have no social media presence, you are missing out on an opportunity of sorts, which is to present a side of you that is not captured in your resume or curriculum vitae. Perhaps even more important, the 2017 survey shows that 57% of employers are less likely to interview a candidate if they are unable to find the person online. The message seems to be that it helps to have an online presence, but you need to be mindful of the image it projects about you.

What are some of the things that are a major turn-off for employers?

Posting inappropriate or provocative photos/videos – 39%
Posting information about drinking or using drugs – 38%
Discriminatory comments (race, gender, religion) – 32%
Badmouthing previous employer/colleagues – 30%
Unprofessional screen name – 22%
Posting too frequently – 17%

Interestingly, according to Jobvite which conducted a survey in 2016 that included aspects of social media, recruiters who are 65 years or older were more likely to view photos of alcohol consumption negatively (63%) compared to millennials (37%). But not knowing how old the person stalking you on Facebook is, you do not want to take your chances! The Jobvite survey also found that more than 60% of recruiters viewed oversharing negatively – one more thing to think about before posting that photo of the dinner you made for your significant other.

There is a silver lining from the CareerBuilders survey: 44% of employers found information on social networking sites that influenced their decision to hire a candidate. For example, candidates whose background qualifications were supported by social network profiles, or candidates who exhibited great communication skills and creativity were viewed positively.

Take-home message is – by all means have an online presence but make it work for you, not against you. Just like in real life, digital first impressions are important. Clean up your profiles and make them look professional. Everything that is shared on the internet is basically immortalized. If you would not want to be associated with it, stay clear – do not post it or engage in discussions about it. Stay on the straight and narrow.

P.S. I read these surveys twice, hoping to find something about employers’ dislike for candidates who post 10 versions of the same photo on Facebook. I did not, and I was a little disappointed.

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