The advent of social media has changed the world and people’s thinking forever. From serving as a source of social interaction to information dissemination and a platform for democratic advancement, social media is now a silent weapon that will either help or ruin your chances into that dream job, writes Zubah Kollie Yennego, Jr, a Liberian and Youth Activist.
You have all of the qualifications and did a very good interview, but you were not hired. Have you ever wondered about some of the reasons? Technology is greatly advancing, and there are lots of advances or discoveries moving alongside its progression. One of those developments is the emergence of social media. According to Statista, Facebook is placed first with 1.35 billion users, China’s Qzone with 629 million, followed by LinkedIn with 332 million, Instagram 300 million and Twitter 284 million users. These statistics evidently indicate that the social media possess a huge number of users or followers. These users or followers can be put into two categories. The first category of users posts various contents ranging from pictures to texts, videos, personal information, résumés, and the likes. While the first category of users is involved in information sharing, the second category of users checks the posted contents from the first category of users. For this paper, the first category of users is considered as the job seekers, job applicants or candidates and the second group of users is classified as employers, hiring officers or human resource professionals. Among these networks, Jobvite survey shows that 79 percent of respondents assert that they hire via LinkedIn with 26 percent through Facebook and 14 percent via Twitter. My concern here is the usage of social media by both job seekers and employers.
Due to the population and the nature of contents being posted on these social networks, employers or hiring officers have turned to these networks to conduct some background checks on job seekers. There is a debate in the circles of human resource professionals on the legality of such background checks by recruitment officers since indeed they rely on the use of social networks. Even amid this debate, human resource officers continue to use social media to conduct background screenings. In the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2013 Survey which gathered information from its member institutions on the use of social media for job recruitment, the survey shows that 77 percent of companies that responded used the social media. In another survey, Careerbuilder.com interviewed 2,303 hiring officials and HR professionals about the reasons for the incorporation of social media into their hiring process. It was discovered that 37 percent of employers used the social media to screen potential job applicants. A report released by the Jobvite (2014 edition of its annual recruiting survey) shows that 93 percent of hiring officials assessed an applicant’s social media profile prior to hiring. The data also revealed that 51 percent of hiring officers considered applicants due to what they found, but 61 percent decided not to hire.
What does this signal to job seekers? What are employers or hiring officers searching for that cannot be found during the job interviews or on the résumés? Many job recruiters carry the ideology that on résumés or during job interviews, applicants will always display their best character or experience. Do employers search for the negative or positive character of the applicants or both?
Employers are usually in the professional habit of recruiting the best applicants who possess both job-fit competence and good character. Since the social media to some extent provides pieces of information that exhibit the true character of a person, recruiters are now running to the social networks to gather genuine information. Do you post videos, pictures and texts on your social network platforms with the thought that a potential employer will do a search on you? To a larger extent, you share those posts with an open mind not with the thought that hiring officers will search your profile. So usually, you present your true-self. This is the genuineness that employers search for. Jonathan A. Segal, a contributing editor to HR Magazine indicated in his article (Social Media Use in Hiring: Assessing the Risk) that employers use background checks to get the clearer picture of the applicant more than what the interview unveils. Jonathan further argued that social media check is one way to enhance background screening in deciding whether an applicant should be hired. In addition to the research done by careerbuilder.com, it discovered that hiring officers browse applicants’ social media profiles to assess the actual character and personality of the applicants. When hiring officers search the profile of applicants, they do not go in pursuit for the negative personality of the applicants. They browse profiles in order to ensure that the applicant is the best fit for the job. This involves the applicant fitting into the institutions’ corporate culture and whether he/she exhibits some forms of professionalism. In the same research done by careerbuilder.com, 65 percent of employers responded that candidates’ profiles are perused in order to discover whether they possess professional character. Additionally, 51 percent wants to know whether the applicant is the best fit for the company culture. When employers search, they find videos, pictures, text, résumés and the likes that can either be positive or negative for the applicant. In the survey by careerbuilder.com, it was further found that 34 percent of employers did not hire a job candidate due to provocative or inappropriate pictures and information posted on his or her profile. 45 percent resolved not to hire because of drinking and /or drug use on his/her social network profile. Other reasons were poor communication skills, discriminatory comments connected to gender, religion, race or qualifications that were not genuine. In spite of these discouraging outcomes, social media also serves as a market place for candidates as it is not all about the negatives of the candidates that employers look for. Through candidate’s profile, employers also find valuable information that works in favor of the candidate. Hiring officers discover information like volunteer experience, contents that display professional image, good communication skills and pieces of information that support the qualification and competence of the applicant, and the likes.
What can Job Seekers do to improve their Social Network Profiles in order to suit recruiters?
Recruiters understand that no one is perfect. But it is positive to try as much as possible to detach doubts from your social media profiles. This means, exercising prudence and good judgment in what you do on social media. To a large extent, your engagement on social media is a reflection of yourself. It will either help to sell you on the job market or discourage employers from hiring your services.
Do not Badmouth People and/or Complain friends or colleagues on Social Networks
It sends a bad signal to your would-be employer when you badmouth others. It speaks to the mind of the potential employer that when you are hired, you will always complain at job and badmouth your colleagues and/or bosses. These are against the spirit of professionalism and teamwork in a good working environment.
Do not Display Your Huge Partying Character
It is not bad to post an occasional drink picture on your profile, but the constant posting of pictures that depict your alcoholic drinking habit, use of drugs and or illegal substances is obviously detrimental to landing you a potential job. Employers will not want their institution to be associated with any employee who drinks alcohol a lot and take pride in posting such information on social media. Take it this way, how will you feel when you see your boss always posting pictures of himself drinking alcohol?
Do not Post Nude or Inappropriate Contents
Posting such contents does not exhibit professionalism. Job recruiters are searching for a job-fit candidate and additionally want an applicant that is professional in his or her activities.
Have a Good Usage of Grammar
Employers look for well-rounded employees. The use of good grammar or the display of good communication skills speaks to the employer that the applicant is an asset and can articulate his or her ideas well. So, always review your grammar on social media except your post is meant for a specific group of speakers or just for the fun with a tag.
Do not Post Pictures of Extremist Belief
Employers will not want to hire a candidate that holds allegiance to an extremist group. It even gives a negative image to the organization if the extremist related candidate were to be hired. So posting contents of such will ruin your chance of securing a job.
Except you will want to work with a specific political institution or organizations that require you to have a political affiliation, it is advisable not to state any political attachments in as much it is your freedom to do so. But remember, freedom is not absolute and in the context of developing countries, your political affiliations can be both positive and negative depending on where you find yourself. Take into serious consideration that many organizations and companies in the private sector are non-partisan institutions. Even in government, many ministries, agencies, corporations reject candidates with association to certain political party. Therefore, these institutions will not want to hire an applicant that has a political attachment even though this might be in violation of your right to association and choice. But again, you might not be told why you were not selected as that qualified candidate for the job.
Consistent Curriculum Vitae or Resume
Ensure that the resume or CV presented during application and the ones on your social media profiles are consistent. If there are deviations, it tells the employer that you are not sincere about your experiences and accomplishments. So, always update your CV and make ensure its uniformity in your dealings. Regular updates of CV are necessary since indeed from time to time, things add to your life and experience.
Adjust Your Privacy Settings
Adjust your privacy settings on your social networks to limit tags and open access to your profile, photos, videos, comments and other contents. For instance, you may be tagged in an inappropriate content; your settings can help stop that content from appearing on your profile. This is somehow a difficult personal choice in limiting access to your profile. But again, think about the negative consequences of inappropriate postings/images you are tagged in.
The good and bad sides of social media are evidently in abundance. From the context of employment, social media is now that power weapon at the disposal of employers. It serves both as a reference point of confirming your suitability or unsuitability for a job. In this age of technology and the advent of social media coupled with its daily widespread use globally, it is far too easier for employers to search on the character and personality of a potential employee or a job seeker through the use of social media. What is found on your social media profile or account could be a contributing factor to deciding your employability. From the series of surveys conducted by different groups and involving Human Resource Managers, it is clear that a positive image or portrayal of yourself on social media builds your chances in getting that dream job. On the other hand, a negative image of yourself does nothing but shut the doors of employment with employers who are concerned of your damaging social media character. This is why exercising professionalism and a sense of responsibility on social media is important as employers are now doing background checks on jobseekers. It is good to avoid negative posts including gossips, badmouthing and complaining about colleagues. Also, avoid posting nude images or inappropriate contents and constantly making grammatical mistakes even though it is social media. While your political affiliation is your freedom, it is advisable as a professional to keep cool on your political association – that is, if you are not into the domain of mainstream politics. Consistency in your CV always matters. So ensure that your CV presented to employers is consistent with the profile information you choose to mention on your social media account. Sharing information, connecting with friends and opening your social media profile to anyone is good, but make sure to control your settings, especially so restricting access to contents on your account and other tags someone might want to link you to. Observing these simple steps should be advantage to you as a job seeker whose potential employer will admire for your professionalism and responsibility, having demonstrated your competence and qualifications for a job.