Be Careful When Using Social Networking

The social media revolution has been in full swing these last few years, with more and more of us using sites like Facebook and Twitter to catch up with old friends, make new friends, and interact with the online masses. However, could such a fun and harmless activity as socializing online actually harm your chances of getting that dream job?

Just as the way in which people socialize has changed in the past decade, so has the way in which recruiters vet potential employees. In the old days, an employer had little more than a resume and a few references to find out what sort of person you are before inviting you for an interview. Nowadays, with most of us having some sort of online presence, the footprints we leave around the web could actually do us more harm than good.

A recent study, conducted amongst some 300 recruitment professionals, returned some alarming results for anyone whose online profile creates an overly negative impression. A huge 91% of the recruiters who were surveyed said they had, at some point, searched through a candidates online profile as part of their vetting process. Potentially even more worrying for some, 69% said that they had decided to reject an applicant just from the evidence found about them online.

So, what exactly are recruiters looking for when they search for a candidates online presence? Well, the simple answer is: everything they can find! They will want to gauge your personality through how you interact with people online, to help them decide how well you would fit in within their organization. They will want to see that the credentials you include in your resume match those in your online profile; that you are a well-rounded, mature, responsible adult with good communication skills, and that you would be an asset to their company.

The more a recruiter can learn about you from your social media activities the better, and if you are careful about your online presence, then this is something that could actually go in your favor. The same study mentioned above produced another interesting statistic: that 68% of the recruiters surveyed said that they had hired someone based on their online profile. Like it or not, whatever you post online is within the public domain, and is fair game for an employer to use in their evaluation process.

Going back to those recruiters who had rejected candidates based on their online activities, what is it they found that caused them such alarm? Well, an employer won’t want to see things like negative comments about a past or current employer, evidence that you take illegal substances or drink excessively, posting inappropriate comments and photos, falsification of your claimed qualifications, and any kind of hateful remark or evidence of egregious behavior.

So, now you know that any future potential employer will likely conduct some online research into your suitability for a position, what should you do before your next job search? The first thing you should do is take a look at any online profiles that you have, make sure any qualifications listed are honest, and remove any content that may put you in a negative light. Making your Facebook profile private, so that only people you are connected to can see your photos and updates, is a good idea if you really want to share anything potentially damaging. Remember though, that any comment you place on someone else’s photo or update may still be publicly visible if their settings are not set to private.

In the case of Twitter, everything you tweet is in the public domain. You do have the option of making your account private, although this does limit your usability somewhat. We have all scoffed at some celebrity or public figure getting into trouble with something inappropriate they have tweeted, so you must remember to use this social media tool with caution. A good rule of thumb, which can be applied to anything you put on any social media site, is that if you would be embarrassed if your mother saw it, don’t post it somewhere public. Last of all, try Googling yourself. If you find anything that may put off a potential employer, do whatever you can to have it removed.

Recruiters using your social media profiles to gauge your suitability for a post isn’t something that is going to die out any time soon. Everything you post online gives anyone who cares to look an insight into your personality, how well you communicate with people, and what you get up to in your spare time. The good news is that you can manipulate these sites into a positive force in your job search activities. Keep your online profiles clean and professional, and use private communication methods such as email for sharing anything you don’t want in the public domain. The next time you are in the market for a new job, remember that it could be your online footprint that could lead the way to success or failure.

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