Is your social networking profile costing you a job?
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have exploded in popularity over the last decade and have become an integral part of many people’s lives. But while social networks may have changed the way that many of us communicate, they’ve also made our lives more public and given potential employers the opportunity to vet candidates based on their online activity.
Most common offences
A study conducted by CareerBuilder in the US last year found that 39 per cent of companies had used social media to screen potential candidates – and that 43 per cent of the recruitment managers involved had found things which had scuppered a candidate’s chances.
It’s a sobering figure – and the same survey also provided a list of the reasons that candidates had been rejected, with the most-common offence being the posting of provocative or inappropriate pictures or words. Half of the recruiters had blocked an application for this reason.
Only marginally less problematic (48 per cent) was evidence of drinking or drug use – so you might want to think twice before complaining about your hangover on Twitter!
Bad-mouthing previous employers, poor communication skills and discriminatory statements were also given as reasons for candidates being winnowed out.
Not just over there
Don’t be tempted to dismiss the data as only applicable to the US – if anything, research suggests UK recruiters could be ahead of their US counterparts in terms of vetting jobseekers’ profiles.
A recent survey conducted by Oilandgaspeople.com found that a whopping 82 per cent of the UK employers questioned had used social media to check up on candidates.
And even more significantly, 64 per cent of the employers admitted rejecting applicants because of what they had found.
Clean up your act
Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid the obvious pitfalls outlined above by taking a few common sense precautions.
Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes and see what you can dig up on yourself on social media. Twitter and Instagram are potentially the most damaging sites – generally being more public than Facebook or Vine.
Excessive bad language, a preponderance of negative comments and bad spelling can all be turn-offs, so take some time to tidy up your profiles if you’re guilty of any of those things.
Check out your privacy settings on the sites you use, making sure that the whole world can’t see your holiday photos or read your Facebook status updates.
It’s also not just your own activity that could damage your employment prospects, so be vigilant about any publicly visible references friends make to you on Twitter and other “open” platforms.
Turn down the volume
We all know that social media can be dangerously addictive – and that some people fritter far too much of their time away shooting the breeze with friends or strangers when they should be working.
If a recruiter sees that you’re tweeting 30 times an hour then they’ll rightly question what kind of effort you’re putting in at your current workplace and alarm bells might start ringing.
Keep your social media use to a sensible level and concentrate on quality rather than quantity.
However potential employers won’t just be looking for damaging material about you on social media, they’ll be seeking reassurance that you will fit in with their company culture.
You don’t need to pretend to be somebody that you’re not, but try to make sure that your visible social media activity reflects the rounded, well-adjusted candidate that you (hopefully) are.
Share details of your professional achievements on sites like LinkedIn, along with any personal activities which suggest you’re a good fit with the type of organisation you’re seeking employment with.
If you already use social media but tend to “lurk” rather than contribute to conversations, you might be well-advised to overcome you cyber-shyness for the good of your career.
Any potential employers will be encouraged to see that you are engaging with subjects relevant to your employment and that your profile conveys a positive and helpful personality.
Of course a Twitter feed full of messages designed solely to appeal to potential employers can also be irritating – so try to keep it natural.
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Copyright 2014 CareerBuilder.co.uk