Technology is a wonderful thing, especially social media. What a great way to stay in touch with friends all over the country (or world), follow special interest groups, share pictures with family and post on professional sites! Social media can be seen by many, many people and, since its content is driven by users, please be mindful of what you put on your social media pages – many HR managers look at social media posts and activity if you are a current job applicant.
Which social media sites are targets?
It makes sense for recruiters to check out your profile on LinkedIn or other such professional websites. They can read your recommendations and see other industry groups with which you are involved. Plus, some of this info may not already be on your resume or job application. If you have any publications or blogs, the recruiter may be able to read those and find out more about your work experiences and skills, depending on the topic.
Facebook and Twitter can be a little bit trickier! It probably makes sense to most job applicants to keep their profiles on these types of sites as private as possible. Most sites have settings that you can change to make sure that people you do not know are unable to see your information or photos. HR managers do not want to see pictures of your weekend antics, your adorable children or old college parties!
What does the recruiter do with this info?
This obviously depends on each company and their social media policies. Some recruiters might not like to look at personal social media profiles (such as Facebook) because it opens the door for liability in terms of potential discrimination claims made by the applicant. If an applicant is not hired because of something irrelevant to the job requirements that was learned from a social site, and he/she sues the company, the organization could potentially be thrown into a long, expensive process trying to present evidence that the employment decision was not made based on the information gathered on social media. Think about if the applicant was pregnant, or if he/she practiced a specific religion, or even if he/she was older than the recruiter expected. All these things could be considered an issue of discrimination and many recruiters will want to avoid this possibility.
A recruiter’s standard social media review practices might also depend on the type of position or industry related to the job in question. If it’s a job in photography, for example, it may be more likely for the recruiter to view a traditionally less professional social site such as Instagram, for example. Or, if the applicant is applying to a position that involves a great deal of writing, then it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the recruiter is viewing the applicant’s Google+ profile and noting the many blogs to which the applicant has contributed, and whether or not he/she has Google Authorship set up.
Why should job seekers use social media, then?
I certainly don’t want to just point out the potentially bad aspects of social media as it relates to the job seeking process – after all, it can be very positive in recruiting as well when used appropriately! Just yesterday I forwarded a job posting that I saw on a friend’s profile to another (non-mutual) friend. This viral sharing of jobs can make a recruiter’s job of reaching a larger audience much easier. Job applicants can use #hashtags on social sites to easily search for relevant jobs or to follow companies in which they are interested. Recruiters can encourage current employees to spread the word of job postings to their own social networks. Some organizations will even pay employees an incentive for sourcing employee referrals.
Social media is not a fad, it is here to stay! Bottom line – as a job applicant, be mindful of the content that you are putting on your profile, professional or otherwise. As you look for your next job, make sure to put social media to good use for yourself and your career. And, if you already have a position, maintaining a professional social media image should still be a priority, as it can be valuable in networking to connect others and in securing new business, as well.