You really need to pay more attention to what you put online

With social media increasingly used as a recruitment tool, is it time for us to pay more attention to what we put online?

Recruiters are warning that young people and graduates risk their chances of employment by what they post online. Employers are searching social media profiles as a method of examining the prospective graduate pre-interview. And while some people don't think we have too much to worried about, concern is increasingly raised over users leaving their privacy settings open, allowing employers to view pictures and posts.

Katerina Rüdiger, skills policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, notes that an “increasing number of employers are turning to social media to engage with their future workforce.” Just as graduates research employers online, these employers are now researching their applicants, and, with the wealth of information available, employers can thoroughly investigate each prospective candidate.

Online profiles can be used to the applicant's benefit, however. Katerina considers that “social media [has a] great potential to help employers adapt their recruitment methods in line with the needs and expectations of today’s youth.”

Adrian Thomas, chairman of the Recruitment Society, believes that “the transparency of information works two ways” with online recruitment. “There is very little offline job advertising anymore,” he says, with adverts either appearing on websites or social media, which “has not only made [job seeking] more accessible, but has also allowed interactivity in a way that was never possible before.”

An increased reliance on this method of recruitment has raised concerns of how candidates conduct themselves online, Thomas suggests that “the simple overriding advice is to think before you post – if your Mother would be embarrassed by your post then it probably isn’t sensible to post to an open group.”

Carl Gilleard, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters maintains that “Facebook and Twitter are not the first places a recruiter would go to find out more about a prospective employee.” The social network sites can be unreliable, and employers would rather invite candidates “for an interview or psychometric profiling rather than search the Internet for accounts that may or may not belong to the right person.”

Once again, there is the idea that this use of social media can be put to the advantage of the graduate and prospective employee, as Gilleard notes: “used sensibly and constructively, social media is an excellent way to express yourself and build your personal ‘brand’.”

The signs are evident that social media is being increasingly used as a recruitment tool. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media profiles are not always the best depiction of an individual’s professionalism, however. There have been a number of stories on employees being fired or reprimanded for what they have posted on Facebook about the company with which they work for, or even photos that they have posted while having a sick day off.

One example is an image that went viral of ‘Lindsay’ criticising her boss in a post on Facebook, calling him a “pervvy w***er”. ‘Lindsay’ had forgotten that she had added her boss as a friend, and was subsequently fired in the comments section of her post. Another more recent example of social media shenanigans is the HMV twitter account hijacker, who has revealed her identity as Poppy Rose Cleere, and has since “received many job offers”, according to her sister Grace Cleere.

Doug Thompson, a Computer Science undergraduate at the University of Southampton, who has recently completed a year internship at IBM, said that “all I know is everyone around me is petrified of [being caught out on Facebook].” Amongst students there seems to be an increased awareness of the affects social media can have on their employability. George Hopkin, studying English and American Literature at the University of Kent, says that he is “not worried” about recruitment firms researching candidates online. “Social media should be used in the right way; it’s about portraying an employable person.” Asked whether he thought social media was an accurate representation of a prospective employee, George said “No – each site portrays a different aspect of a person’s life, a combined social media would be more accurate.”

There is a website which achieves this end. Known as Vizify, it collates all of the user’s social media accounts into one, “creating a series of interactive infographics that show the best of [the user].” Sites such as LinkedIn have created a more professional based platform for users to show off their skills. Last year Facebook also announced its job board, an application which collects job data from applications already in existence such as BranchOut, DirectEmployers and JobVite. With Facebook itself entering the area of recruitment, it is difficult to ignore the importance of social media profiles in both job seeking and recruitment.

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