Social networking websites have disrupted hiring practices, and your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles can now determine whether or not you will get a job. Today, employers are expanding their selection criteria to include a background check of the online profiles of candidates. In fact, many companies are recruiting primarily off the Internet and paying less attention than ever to resumes. The traditional resume is not dead, of course, and will be with us for some time. But your online presence and activities are becoming part of your resume (whether you like it or not). Your activities on social media sites play a significant role in whether a potential employer invites you for an interview, or whether you progress through the hiring process.
Employers are using social media sites to find out if potential employees will be a fit for their company’s culture, as well as to gather other information that a typical resume will not provide. Candidates who do not have an online profile could miss out on the opportunity of getting a job through their lack of presence on social media. Apart from that, the inherent advantages of social and professional networks are being missed by people who do not have (or who fail to update) social media accounts.
It has now become a practice for HR personnel, before even inviting someone in for an interview, to Google the candidate. And in this modern age of smart search engines, candidates who are active on social media have the advantage. But there is also a problem. Unlike the human brain, the Internet never forgets. Those inappropriate or racist statements you made in your sophomore year of college, or that photo of you drunk that was taken at your graduation party, can now come back to bite you in your job application process. With just a simple search for your name, all the blog posts you have made since 2006 pop up; blogs about your vacation to Mexico, your opinion on the global financial crisis, your outburst on gay marriage, your comment on immigration laws – everything will be laid bare at the desk of the recruiter or hiring manager. At this point, your degree matters less and less as the interviewer is analyzing your personality, trying to ensure that you won’t wreck the company or ruin the team. They need to know you are just the kind of person they want. Today, your online content is your digital resume and, more than ever before, it is important that you treat it very carefully.
Facebook and Other Social Sites
Recently, scholars from Ghent University conducted an experiment that focused on how publicly-available information (on Facebook) about job applicants affects employers’ hiring decisions. They conducted a field experiment in which fictitious job applications were submitted to real job openings in Belgium. The only characteristic that differences these candidates was the unique Facebook profile that could be found under their name. Candidates with the most beneficial Facebook picture received approximately 38% more interview invitations compared to candidates with less beneficial pictures.
The entire study is very interesting, so if you’re fan of data and experiments like I am then I would recommend you read it. The whole experiment could be found here.
Many people still consider Facebook a private space, and believe that if they choose the strictest privacy settings the information they share will hidden from the public. Sadly, this is not correct—the only information that is well-hidden is information that is never posted on the Internet.
Bear in mind that Facebook is among the first places (Google is still first) where recruiters and hiring managers go to find information about candidates, and where team members go to learn about their new colleagues. All this information can help recruiters and hiring managers to see if you are right for their company culture.
Facebook can reveal more information about you than you think! For example, the pages you have “liked” (https://www.facebook.com/search/4/pages-liked), the photos you have commented on (https://www.facebook.com/search/4/photos-commented), the photos you’ve been tagged in by your friends (https://www.facebook.com/search/4/photos-tagged), and more. (These examples are from Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook).
A picture is worth ten thousand words, and your Facebook profile picture appearance often constitutes recruiters’ and hiring managers’ first impression of you. So carefully consider, and choose wisely, what you display there.
Additionally, new applicant tracking systems can easily connect your application with all your public profiles on social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. This allows the recruiter to find more information about you with just a single click and without any special effort.
What Employers are Looking For
You might be wondering what employers are actually looking for when they go through your online profile. They want to see that you are opinionated, but that you respect other people’s views and opinions. They want to see that you are informed and know what is happening in your industry. They want to see creativity, and to see you express yourself with clarity and without any vulgarity. They want to see that you are passionate, but they are also looking for signs that you are the right person for their team—or that will give them a hint that you are not the right person for their team.
If you’re one of the few lucky people who does not have a Facebook or Linkedin profile, just remember that your online profile could be anything that relates to your name. That includes Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus+, Pinterest, and YouTube—but also legacy sites that you used when you were a teenager such as LiveJournal, or message boards and forums where your conversations live on in perpetuity. And don’t forget about things like comments you’ve made on blog articles, Yelp reviews, and so forth.
As you build your online profile, try to avoid information that could harm you in the future. We often forget about the accounts that we create, but the information we publish and share on those accounts will stay forever. Even if the site ceases to exist, much of that information can still be found through the “Wayback Machine,” which is a website that allows you to view archived versions of the entire web from years past.
If you are already active on social media, just spend a little more time there every month and think about what you’re posting and how those posts support your personal brand. Publish meaningful status updates, such as your thoughts on your area of expertise and general matters. Look at what distinguishes you from other people and how best you can convey your value to your potential employers.
If you lack a presence on LinkedIn, it could affect your job search and cause you to miss out on some great opportunities. Also, a LinkedIn presence will help you leave a digital trail and create a space where recruiters and hiring managers can find curated information about you.
During the interview, you are trying to present yourself in bright colors and make a positive impact, so that those who interview you will like you and invite you back for the next round. As you learned from the study by Stijn Beart from Ghent University, the most beneficial Facebook pictures got approximately 38% more job interview invitations and 21% more positive reactions in a broad sense when compared to candidates with the least beneficial pictures. Before you apply for a new role, you should always think first about how your online profiles look and how the public data that is available about you can affect your chances in a positive or negative way.