Is social media ruining your career? No – you’re doing that all by yourself! - Utter Digital
Social media for recruiters

Employers use social media to have a look at the public profiles of employees and potential employees. Fact. It’s not a new discovery. And yet, it appears it is actually a stunning revelation to so many. Why? With so many businesses, brands and professionals on social media, why would it come as such a surprise that it is used as a research tool to vet potential employees?

It’s used as a research tool to find prospective employees, so why not to find out more about them? In fact, 69% of recruiters have already rejected candidates based on the content found on their social networking profiles.

I recently watched a Twitter exchange on this very subject with amazement. The discussion involved switched on individuals, established tweeters, social media savvy people…or so I thought.

One tweeter simply asked the question “How do you feel about your employer looking at your social media activities?” It’s a fair enough question – bound to be mixed feelings about it I suspected. The responses quite simply stunned me.

Some questioned whether this actually happened – in reality? – surely not! – was it real?! Their disbelief was palpable – as was mine at their sheer naivety.

Others were appalled at the thought. They felt it inappropriate, intrusive, a downright infringement on their rights in some cases.

Unbelievable! We live in a digital era. The ubiquitous nature of social media has seen it influence every area of our lives. If you have public social media profiles, this makes everything you publish there, well…public! It’s fair game. This is not an invasion of privacy or an infringement on your rights – you’ve chosen what you’ve published and you’ve selected your privacy settings.

Social media for recruiters & employers

In my view, this is an important part of the recruitment process for employers in today’s world. There are blurred lines between personal and professional lives in many cases, and those lines are pretty much erased if you make your personal life a public free for all on social media.

One of the best assets any business can have is their people. This isn’t new. The behaviour of employees in their down time and how that reflects on the reputation of the company – well, that’s not new either. What’s new (relatively speaking), is how easy it is to find out about the individuals in a particular organisation and connect with them online. We add into the mix the potential for anything to go viral in a matter of hours, and you have a potential recipe for a PR disaster for any company.

An individual’s use of social media can highlight a number of risks. Do they portray an image which will fit with your brand? Have they publicly slated a former employer or discussed anything potentially confidential? Is their profile picture one of them snorting cocaine off a naked woman? Do they get into profanity-strewn public arguments? Are they bragging about their involvement in anything potentially illegal or highly controversial? Are they into hunting elephants? This last one may seem like an obscure example, but it’s taken from the real-life example of the CEO of GoDaddy who was filmed shooting an elephant. In 2011, the video went viral on social media and the result was outrage. Cries to boycott the company were led by animal welfare groups, and GoDaddy found themselves in a boiling PR cauldron.

You get the idea. If the answer is yes to any of these, don’t need me to tell you how it may reflect on your business. It’s commonplace for your potential customers to research your business online, or Google their new Account Manager. Now how would they react if they saw any of this? Enough said.

There is of course another potential red flag to be aware of – those posts about how they’ve pulled a sickie, or are getting away with doing little or nothing at work and still cashing in at the end of every month. Yes, everyone may be guilty of a little slacking from time to time, but publicly bragging about taking your employer for a ride should set off a few alarm bells.

It’s in every company’s interests to find out how their employees and potential employees behave on social media, and how this would potentially reflect on their business. Any company not doing so is taking a risk and probably needs to look at their recruitment strategy.

Companies should go even further in my mind and have a documented social media policy in place for all employees, and even incorporate a social media awareness element into their company training. The fact is, many individuals simply aren’t aware that there’s a potential issue there, so by raising the awareness and putting a fair policy in place, you’re protecting yourself and also helping your workforce.

And this isn’t just for large multi-nationals and organisations with large workforces – au contraire! This applies just as much to the small, local business – if not more so. If you’ve got a smaller target area, then it’s more likely your employees will be connected to your customers and potential customers in some way through their social networks. Think friend of a friend of a friend type scenario.

Social media job searching

Social media for employees and jobseekers

As for those individuals who are stunned by this revelation, time to have a look at how you’re coming across on social media. What you post up there today could cost you that all important interview tomorrow, or that dream job even further down the line.

Now, I’m not talking about a few pictures of you in a bar having a drink with your mates – that’s your social life, and it’s not an issue. If your social profiles are littered with images of you lying in a pool of your own vomit missing half your clothing at the end of the night, however!

Time to start thinking about ‘brand you’ and shape your digital footprint to suit your long term goals. In fact, those with ambition will see this as the huge opportunity it can be, rather than an infringement of your privacy.

You have the power to influence how you come across online. It’s not just your LinkedIn profile potential employers and recruiters are looking at – it’s everything about you, so expect that they’ll see it, rather than hoping they won’t. Google yourself, clean up your profiles, get rid of the potentially damaging material, and start building an overall profile for yourself that’s worthy of that dream job. Demonstrate how your social media profile can be an asset, rather than a risk to their business.

Oh, and probably best to double check your privacy settings before you go posting anything you don’t want to share publicly. In fact, I’d suggest if what you’re posting could harm your future prospects in any way, keep it to yourself. As this LinkedIn user found out, what’s shared privately online won’t necessarily stay private.

If you need help creating a social media policy or providing social media training for your business, just get in touch.

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