Social Media and Employment

Love it or hate it, social media has become ingrained in our culture and daily life and is not going away any time soon. The average American spends about two hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other social media platforms. These days it’s more than just a personal pastime and a way to keep up with friends; social media is increasingly being used by employers. This is something job seekers must keep in mind because, beyond advertising, companies use social media both as a recruiting tool and a way to screen candidates. Problems can arise when candidates’ online personal and professional worlds collide.

Social Media Screening is Increasingly Common

According to 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70 percent of employers report using social media, as well as other online search tools to screen job candidates. In fact, about one-third of employers have a staff member dedicated to this role. By scanning their profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, employers hope to learn more about potential employees than they can glean from the curated information presented on resumes and cover letters. The additional knowledge they typically seek includes:

  • Objective evidence that supports their qualifications for the job. Employers check to see that information listed on the candidate’s social media profiles matches their resume. It’s also a good way to learn more about the companies where the candidate has worked.
  • Additional clues about a candidate’s personality, character, and interests, along with a sense of what others think about the candidate to help determine if they’re a good cultural fit for the job and company.
  • Whether a candidate actually has an online presence on social media. If not, that raises a red flag: employers may wonder if the candidate is hiding something or is not tech savvy.

Speaking of red flags, one of the primary reasons employers check a candidate’s online background or behavior is to discover reasons NOT to hire them. These may include:

  • Posting inappropriate content on social media or having an unprofessional or provocative screen name. Inappropriate content could be defined as obscene, reckless, discriminatory, or simply lacking in good judgement. Another no-no includes posting proprietary or defaming information about a current or past employer or fellow employees.
  • A display of poor communications skills.
  • Evidence that a candidate is lying about their experience or qualifications.
  • Evidence of criminal behavior.
  • Posting too frequently, suggesting the candidate doesn’t have a balanced life.

According to CareerBuilder’s survey, about half of employers find online information about a candidate resulting in the candidate not being hired. While this may seem unfair and capricious, particularly when it comes to judging the extent of a candidate’s social media output—whether it’s deemed too much or too little. But the truth is, at this stage of the hiring process, employers hold all the cards.

So, with the odds being high that employers will check a candidate’s social media profile(s), it’s prudent to use social media judiciously in this day and age. Simply deleting your social media profiles is not the answer. Instead, well before you start looking for a new job, think carefully about what you post on social media, remembering that it may define you in the eyes of a prospective employer.

By carefully curating your online profiles, you can use social media to your advantage—in effect, establishing your brand. Choose images that represent you in your best professional light. And, don’t overshare, don’t talk about work, and don’t trash-talk anyone.

Using Social Media to Find a Job

Having a professionally honed profile on social media is important even before you reach the job interview stage. Employers use social media, known as ‘social recruiting’, to identify qualified candidates as well as advertise open positions. LinkedIn is predominantly their platform of choice. By setting up an optimized profile, you increase your chances of being ‘discovered’ by potential employers.

Social media and online search are also a great ways to research and identify organizations where you might like to work. Glassdoor features insider reviews and rankings; Instagram offers behind-the-scenes images of work and company-sponsored events. You can scan these reviews and posts to get a general sense of what it’s like working at particular organizations you might be interested in. The reviews, as a collective, will likely provide insight into how the organizations treats its employees and engages with the public, in general. But, similar to restaurant or hotel reviews, don’t take individual reviews too seriously.

Google customer reviews are a good source of information in that an organization’s approach to customer service can be reflective of how they treat employees. For example, do they respond to reviews—negative or positive? Are they empathetic? Do they try to solve problems? The chances are that organizations that provide prompt, high quality customer service, are well managed and value their employees.

On LinkedIn, you can join industry groups to learn and connect with other members of your profession. Through open interactions with others in these forums, you can display your experience and knowledge, essentially marketing yourself. Chances are, someone in a position to potentially hire you might be paying attention; more and more, someone is always paying attention.

So, as tempted as you might be to show off some crazy adventure, or bachelor/bachelorette party you and your buddies participated in over the weekend, think before you post. Is this how you want to present yourself to a prospective employer? Probably not. It can feel as though having employers online takes all the fun out of social media, but it’s the world we live in today. Share, be yourself (within reason), and think of it as an opportunity for you to market your personal brand.

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