These days, recruiters and potential employers are looking up job seekers’ profiles on the various social media platforms to match their information with those on their database, and the outcome of the exercise now plays a significant role in determining eligibility for employment.
Beyond the “Big Brother is Watching” syndrome, the virtual world has come to stay. It pervades every aspect of human lives. It spans from education to commerce, government to politics, family to community, medicare to social welfare and entrepreneurship to employment.
Obviously, social media and the people who use them have become a major concern in recruitment and selection in the workplace. According to Wikipedia, “A 2014 survey of recruiters found that 93% of them check candidates’ social media postings.” It went further to state that “Use of social media by young people has caused significant problems for some people when they entered the job market. A survey of 17,000 young people in six countries in 2013 found that 1 in 10 people aged 16 and 34 have been rejected for a job because of online comments.”
Whilst the emergence of social media is becoming a popular trend particularly among young people across the world, there is also an ongoing debate about the legitimacy, morality and rights of both employers and employees to access and/or share information on social media platforms. As the debate rages, it is expedient that job seekers learn to be smart in their use of social media to avoid becoming part of the statistics of casualties arising from recruiters and employers’ decisions to use the social media as part of the process of thoroughly profiling and adjust the suitability of their candidates for hire.
Recruiters and employers can deploy any legitimate means to profile their candidates for employment suitability. Now they visit the social media to check and profile these candidates.
Social media are websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking. Wikipedia defined it as “computer-mediated tools that allow people to create, share or exchange information, ideas and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks.” It added that “They depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss and modify user-generated content.” People, particularly the young adults who constitute a greater percentage of job seekers in any economy use social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Del.icio.us, YouTube, Whats-app, blogs and such other sites that have content based on user participation and user-generated content.
Pew Research Centre painted a detailed demographic portrait of users of various social networking sites. It said as of September 2014, 71% of online adults use Facebook. 23% use Twitter. 26% use Instagram. 28% use Pinterest. 28% use LinkedIn.
Technology and available of mobile internet have increased the access of young adults to social media. Pew Research Centre also said, “The growing ubiquity of cell phones, especially the rise of smartphones, has made social networking just a finger tap away. Fully 40% of cell phone owners use a social networking site on their phone, and 28% do so on a typical day.” The implication is that more job seekers are becoming increasingly active on the social media, and are likely to make comments, post pictures and interact through the various platforms they subscribe to.
The intention is not to dissuade job seekers from using the social media. As a job seeker, if you do not have a presence on the social media, you could be doing yourself more harm than good in contemporary times. It is counterproductive to start or build a career without a robust online presence. The benefits of having and maintaining an online presence as a job seeker far outweighs the decision not to have one. Living now and not maintaining an online presence as a job seeker is like attempting to live in the 21st century with the typical Roman Empire medieval mentality.
Therefore, the issue is not shying away from social media but learning how to manage your presence and interaction in a beneficial way to yourself. You are a brand. If you are a job seeker, you must have possessed certain competences (abilities and skills) that you want to put on display for potential recruiters and employers. Your general comportment on the social media will go a long way to enhance your eligibility for employment during recruitment and selection process with recruiters and potential employers.
You need to begin to mind how you interact with all existing social media platforms that are available for use free of charge to the general public. When a medium is free and virtual, people tend to throw discretion into the air and behave as if others are not watching them. They make comments that they would not necessarily make and splash pictures that are for their eyes only on the internet. The liberty that comes with free and virtual platforms is not meant to be abused. Someone somewhere is watching and taking notes.
The social media platforms are public spheres. You should realize that when you are online you are in the eyes of the public. You are in the marketplace. The recruiter or potential employer also uses the platforms to carry out their own duties of accessing and evaluating individuals they may be interested in hiring to enable them know the type of persons and their levels of competences.
Like in everyday lives, there are certain rules that guide our conducts when we interact in the public sphere. Your character, conversation, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation and community should be such that you are above board. You must be mindful of the type of image you are projecting to the public. In everyday life, you cannot afford to give people the impression that you are not a professional. Consequently, your attitude, conduct, posting of pictures, writing of comments or articles on any subjects, love life and relationships should reflect how you want the public to perceive you.
A responsible job seeker cannot go around posting irresponsible comments on the social media attacking personalities, institutions and companies; sharing private pictures and discussing his or her love life on the social media and expect that these actions will not negatively affect recruiters and potential employers’ perception in the future.
Generally, job seekers should be professional, circumspect, consistent, positively engaging and current in their use of social media in order to attract positively evaluation from recruiters and potential employers.
If you are not sure how you should comport yourself on social media, it is high time you took inventory of your activities and go for training on how to creatively and positively use the social media to attract recruiters and potential employers to your competences, and get a job of your dream.
Your character on the social media should be consistent with who you are in real life. If you are a hardworking young adult, your web presence should not give the public the impression that you are ‘The Don’: ‘tough guy on the fast lane to make mega buck by any means imaginable’. What type of portrait is your display picture showing? Is it your clean and simple portrait or a picture of a rough fellow with weird outlook that is suitable for the entertainment industry? You should take down pictures that do not properly represent you and what you stand for. For example, you cannot be a medical doctor and portray yourself as a mafia don in the social media. That is clearly a contradiction that sends wrong signals to recruiters and potential employers.
Your conversations should be polite and non-abusive. Your comments on friends’ pages or on personal and socio-political issues should reflect your personality. You should not get carried away or careless to begin to attack personalities or people who do not agree with your school of thoughts. Nobody can curtail your freedom of expression. However, you have a duty to express yourself responsibly without getting yourself mixed up with defamation. You should be polite and discretionary in your conversations. Do not be a rumour monger. Do not spread false information. You have a right to not make comments when you are not sure.
You should keep your personal life away from the social media. This affects the presence you maintain, the information and pictures you share with others, your relationships with your lover and family. There are certain things that are best kept away from social media. The moment you post online, it remains online. You can save yourself regrets and heartaches if you are discretionary in your presence, sharing and relationships online.
You should manage your reputation and the communities you belong well. You should not get mixed up with the wrong people online so that recruiters and potential employers do not judge you with their lenses.
Author: Babatunde Fajimi
This article was originally published in The Union Newspaper under CEO Mentorship on Sunday, March 22, 2015