Social Media & the Job Search: Boon or Bane?

  By Dr. Frank Burtnett  |    Monday March 14, 2017

Category: Certification, Education, Expert Advice, Recruiting

Like the force of a gigantic magnet, an incredible number of Americans have been drawn to the Internet. Additionally, sources like the Pew Research Center Internet and American Life Project tell us that approximately eight in ten of all Internet users now have a Facebook or some other form of social media account.

Social media, whether Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linked In, Twitter and others most certain to follow, now influence how we learn what is happening in our world and how we communicate with others. A majority of Americans, for example, told Pew last year that they use social media to get their news, eschewing both the print and electronic media that have dominated journalism throughout history. Further, growing numbers of individuals are using social media as a tool for finding or changing jobs and a rising number of employers are tapping into those sources to vet candidates for employment.

This electronic communication explosion has resulted in countless search and staffing professionals having to answer candidate questions about the do’s and don’ts of social media and then having to deal with the remains when the all-too-frequent “crash and burn” occurs. Hopefully, wise candidates will be relying on recruiting professionals as their primary helpers in the job finding process and using social media in a manner that promotes exploration, learning, networking and other strategies that help them achieve their full career potential.


Guiding Candidates in Social Media Use

When asked by candidates how social media can best be used, search and staffing professionals should offer guidance that includes the following:

Ensure that one’s personal profile is both professional and private. 

Make certain that any career information is accurate and consistent with printed and shared resumes.

Update career and work-related information as experiences warrant.

Make certain that postings are free of opinions, biases, especially with regards to present and past employers.

Establish a presence in the career and occupational networks (i.e., professional organizations) that will benefit one’s career.

Avoid communications and connections that can be misinterpreted or interpreted negatively by an employer conducting a background check.

View Internet exposures as intersections where the candidate and employer are going to meet and capitalize on those interfaces.

Communicate a clear and compelling message in a scholarly (i.e., grammar, spelling, etc.) manner.

Use considerable forethought, discretion and caution in determining what personal information is to be shared via any social media site.

Candidates should also be encouraged to reverse positions and use the employer’s social media presence to learn more about firms, organizations or businesses. Just as employers may wish to screen applicants using social media, candidates can use utilize a similar strategy to determine if the prospective job or setting would be a good fit.

Employer Use of Social Media in the Hiring Process

Guidance in how employers may use social media in the selection or hiring process is yet another body of information that search and staffing professionals may wish to share with candidates as they navigate the various job acquisition steps---if for no other reason than to amplify their earlier cautionary guidance regarding social media self-use. 

A recent posting found that 37% of employers used social networks to screen candidates. Put in mathematical terms, two in five employers examine social media profiles to learn more about candidates. How influential those findings are in making job offers may be impossible to determine---but the greater the use---the greater the influence potential.

When queried by CareerBuilder as to the motivation of screening candidates via social media, the responses ranged from wanting to see the person in their lifestyle and work culture to a desire to learn more about work experiences and qualifications to the very frank response of looking for reasons “not to hire.”

A passage in the National Association of Personnel Services (NAPS) legal manuals which present information required for industry certification training indicates that social media has also created a number of issues with regard to discriminatory hiring practices as these online services identify people in protected classes and, in effect, provide information that would ordinarily not be requested on applications. 

The NAPS manual states: “To the extent an employer gathers information from social media sources; it can expose itself to claims for discriminatory hiring practices. Care should be taken to separate the person with hiring authority from those doing Internet and social media searches.”

Social Media: Boon or Bane?

Back to the title of this Career Mechanic entry, Social and the Job Search: Boon or Bane? for one final thought. The candidate’s social media presence, properly constructed can be a boon to job finding and relocation---meaning what’s posted there can have a utility that will produce positive results. When poorly created or left unattended a social media presence can be the bane of job discovery or change---meaning it can weaken the candidate’s chances for success or even cause the demise of an employment application.

Contrary to any belief that social media information only works against the candidate, many employers have cited the value of getting to observe the “big picture” identity of the candidate, his/her engagement in career networks and the informal demonstrations of behavior or character that can often be seen in social media and, but are invisible in the resume. Often it is one or more of these characteristics that tilts the scales favorably for the candidate.


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