Not so many years ago, when social media was still new to most people, a lot of hiring managers were squeamish about checking out prospective employees’ social media profiles. Those days now seem oddly quaint.
A recent CareerBuilder survey revealed that 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring them – a rise of ten per cent in a year. (1) There are also now plenty of documented cases of employees being fired, or prospective employees having job offers rescinded, because of comments they made on social media (2).
The extent to which individuals’ behaviour on social media profiles is protected is under continual debate and beyond the scope of this blog. However, earlier this year, European data protection authorities stated that “in-employment screening of employees’ social media profiles should not take place on a generalised basis.” (3) The declaration was made in updated guidance from the Article 29 Working Party, a group made up of representatives of each of the EU’s national data watchdogs including Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office. (4)
So the extent to which employers can “snoop” on their employees’ social media seems to be something that is in the state of being established. But after a number of cases in which employees have been fired for posting content considered at odds with their employer’s brand, it’s now pretty much a given that when it comes to social media, the way you behave online is considered an extension of how you behave offline.
What is less up for debate is that the sheer omnipresence of social media means it has become something of a shop window for jobseekers, which means they can turn it to their advantage if they wish. I’m not here to provide legal advice to anyone about what they can or can’t do on their social media - but I do think there are steps that any jobseeker can take to professionalise their social channels.
If it’s being seen, why not turn it to your advantage? Here are a few suggestions as to how you can make your online presence work for you.
Remember that in all contexts, even the day-to-day of working life, identities are constructed. People choose to reveal and conceal information about themselves. And when you have time to reflect on what you share and don’t share – as you do online – you have the opportunity to create an identity that reflects well on you.
But that doesn’t mean editing yourself into a non-entity. Nor does it mean treating Facebook as if it were an online assessment centre. Facebook is a friends-oriented channel and you shouldn’t dilute your identity and edit your life to the point of non-existence. Be authentic and true to who you are, but just with an awareness that you never know who may end up seeing your content (regardless of privacy settings, which we’ll come to briefly later).
Likewise, while LinkedIn is a professional networking tool and your shares on the platform should probably reflect that, your hobbies, interests and accomplishments can reflect well on you as a jobseeker. You can add to your profile, share or create content about anything that helps to sell you as a strong candidate within your field. This includes publishing original blogs on your profile.
For example, if you’re an ambitious marketing candidate with a passion for sports and are hoping to work for a major sports brand, it might be useful to share or mention any significant sporting achievements or blog about your recent mountain-climbing trip, provided you keep it professional and think about how you can tie the content into your professional persona and make it work for you in your search for a job.
Meanwhile, anyone looking at your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts will expect to see something about who you are in your own time, provided you keep it clean and productive. Twitter is particularly useful for bringing together your professional and personal identity.
Follow and engage with companies you like
It’s easy to create your own Twitter profile and follow companies, media outlets, societies and organisations you’re interested in. You can engage with (react to or share) content that reflects your professional and personal interests, and do the same for content from companies you’d like to work for.
You can of course do the same on LinkedIn, which also allows you to join groups where you can engage in conversations with like-minded people in your chosen field. Instagram is useful for following brands you like.
Manage your settings appropriately – use privacy settings to the maximum if you want to keep your “private” platforms restricted.Exercise special care with tagged photos on Facebook.
Even if your privacy settings make your profile a very closed shop, there are still ways someone could see something from your profile that you’d prefer them not to – more likely through a friend’s inadvertent slip than deliberate snooping. It’s safest to be careful about what you share and to edit your social profiles so the image they create of you is one you’re comfortable with.
I personally believe you should “live” your brand anyway. As a business owner I am unlikely to do anything that I’m embarrassed about, even when I’m technically “off the clock” - you never really are when you’ve got your own business anyway! That doesn’t mean I don’t have fun, and I also believe it’s important to let your hair down – to an extent.
Remember that first impressions count. It's nearly Christmas, so watch how you document your partying. Don’t forget the power of unconscious bias: rightly or wrongly, once somebody has gained a certain impression of you, it’s hard to change it.
Read the next blog in this series, in which we provide more advice about using social media in your job search, including some ideas about how you can get creative with your social media to impress or engage with prospective employers.
1. Career Builder: This research was referenced in this piece by BBC news
2. If you don’t believe me, just Google it! Here’s just one, on Monster
3. Quoted from The Telegraph
4. Also referenced in the above article.
For help with any aspect of job hunting, you can chat to our friendly team at 1-1 Recruitment. Contact us today!