“Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it.” – Erin Bury
Are you an active Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram user?
Think twice before posting an update on your Facebook profile – because they could actually implicate your reputation amongst potential employers.
You might have heard about the general rule of thumb when it comes to social media: the idea that anything you mention on social media could have implications that could potentially tarnish your reputation online. It could also give others the wrong impression and cause your online friends to misjudge and misunderstand you. Furthermore, it could affect the perception of your potential employers. Unfortunately, employers could misunderstand and misinterpret your persona based on what they see on your social media pages.
Everyone is on social media these days, including potential recruiters. Unbeknownst to many, employers are actually looking at your social media profiles — and googling your name in search engines to learn more about you as an individual during the application process! A 2017 study found that 70 percent of employers check out potential candidates online before hiring.
What’s more, they aren’t only looking at your social media profiles — 69 percent have admitted to using online search engines to find out more about candidates. In particular, they find out more about your academic history, hobbies as well as what types of content you share on your page. A 2012 survey revealed that three out of four (75.1 percent) employers in Singapore conduct research on potential candidates online, particularly on LinkedIn (38.4 percent) and Facebook (34.3 percent).
Some employers even go as far as finding your Instagram and Snapchat accounts! In doing their research as well as taking your social media content into account, employers would be able to gauge how right you are for the job and whether you will be able to fit in with their company culture.
Given that the use of social media in Singapore is higher than the global average — about 70 percent of Singaporeans use social media, compared to the global average of 34 percent — there is a higher chance of employers searching for you online, and indeed finding results. And you’d be surprised because it doesn’t take your employers much research to find your social media profiles! In fact, it just takes a bit of typing and several clicks of the button before they uncover your social media profiles.
Andrew Chow, a social media strategist and author of Social Media 247, notes that in the age of social media, nothing is ever private or personal. “Whatever you say, do, post and think on social media is a reflection of you. Recruiters will piece all these together and make a perception about you,” he says.
Why is a professional social media profile important?
One in two employers are prepared to research job candidates using social media if necessary, according to a survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters of 896 jobseekers and 280 hiring managers. The main reason for this is to ensure that candidates are suitable for hire — the survey noted that 64 percent of employers have viewed a jobseeker’s professional social network profile at some point for this purpose. Their social media profiles unveil a truer side to their applicants – they showcase their candid side, old pictures, interests as well as mannerism and interaction with their peers online.
What’s more, this is not confined to professional social network platforms such as LinkedIn but extends to personal pages such as Facebook — 27 percent of the employers surveyed admitted to having used Facebook to evaluate a prospective employee at some point in time. Unlike LinkedIn, Facebook would showcase a more casual and lifestyle side of their applicants. This is true for Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat as well.
Bearing the above in mind, Andrew says that while one post may not mean much in the scheme of things, when a recruiter strings your past 20 posts and comments together, a good idea of your personality and values may be gleaned. “Recruiters will piece all these together and come to a conclusion about you. It may be just a perception, but it can harm your chances of getting called up for a job interview. Remember, recruiters are not just hiring someone with competencies, but are looking for potential employees who are the right fit for both their company’s culture and to their existing teams,” he says.
In fact, social media postings could also discourage your employer from hiring you for a role. For instance, if you constantly share contentious content on social media like articles which are racially and religiously controversial or if you make ill remarks online, you might give off the impression that you are difficult to work with. In fact, you portray yourself in a very negative light in doing so. Thus, employers may not think highly of you and might choose to hire another candidate altogether.
Do professional social media platforms affect the recruitment process — and what does this mean for jobseekers?
According to the Robert Walters survey, 35 percent of employers say they access professional social media profiles (such as LinkedIn) during the application stage of the recruitment process to give themselves a better idea of the candidate’s personality as well as employment history and references. The company, therefore, notes that it is important for a prospective candidate to have an informative profile as well as a strong cover letter (CV), resume, accomplishments and recommendations.
Another 25 percent of the employers surveyed access professional social networks at the interview stage. Such employers, says the survey, are interested in employment information not gained from speaking directly with the individual concerned. After all, you can find out more by doing your own digging and research on your applicants.
Keith Ng, the co-founder of Gametize, a digital gamification platform, views LinkedIn as a database of professionals — “like a gigantic online address book”, where it’s transparent what a person does for a living, who they work with and have worked with in the past. It’s like a platform which connects all working professionals.
You can even ask your previous employers to write recommendations on your LinkedIn to build your profile. When it comes to hiring potential candidates for his company via this platform Keith says he checks out endorsements as well as connections, but all with the permission of the candidate beforehand. This gives Keith access to his applicants’ employment and academic history.
How do personal social media platforms come into play?
Sceptics who underestimate the impact and influence of social media might be shocked at what they are about to read.
Because believe it or not – social media does play a significant role for employers. In fact, some employers even use social media to recruit and headhunt for potential employees.
Grace Sanchi, general manager of Optimo Singapore, a local wholesaler and brand distributor, shares that the company has hired about 60 percent of their company’s staff (including more mature workers such as their accounts staff) via Facebook. She says that even though the company actively uses the platform for hiring staff, as recruiters, they rarely check the personal social media pages of candidates. “We don’t want to pre-judge people as it’s not fair — people have a right to have a work-life and a personal life,” she explains.
However, she does concede that if a particular candidate shows a difficult attitude — in one case she encountered a candidate who was demanding and rude in an interview — they will do a check on the person’s social media pages just to make sure that the person can in fact gel with the whole team and won’t cause friction in projects and with customers.
Otherwise, she feared that the candidate might affect the team spirit and the dynamic of the company. For Grace, she resolved to perform adequate and substantial research before making an informed decision about whether or not she should hire the applicant.
Tips to Ensure a Professional Social Media Profile
Now that you’ve read about the significance of social media in the job application process, how can you use this knowledge to your advantage? Read on for some tips on how to manage your reputation online and how you can preserve a professional and respectable profile on social media without having to compromise too much on your personal life.
Do an Online Search
Check your name online using search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing to gauge the impression you may make on an employer who chooses to conduct a search online.
Check Your Posts
- Update your privacy settings. For example, on Facebook, you can view your page as it appears to the general public. Switch off any posts marked to “general” to “friends only”. Mark your Instagram account as private. This keeps your potential employers out of your social media platform. However, bear in mind that adjusting your privacy may not be a foolproof solution as employers could use mutual friends’ accounts to access your profile if they have any mutual connections.
- Do not post threads/comments that could be seen as offensive or inappropriate. This includes any content which is racially contentious, religious controversial and politically triggering. Instead, post neutral content that informs or helps its readers.
- Do not post any unprofessional images on professional social platforms. Photos here should be more business-related
- Never mock or disparage anyone on social media, especially past employers or co-workers.
Indeed, social media has taken over our lives. While it may be an effective and interactive way to connect with friends and reach out to potential employers, it is key to always take a step back and reflect about whether your content could be offensive to any party.
Before posting any content, pause and ask yourself the following questions: Does your content contain any negative connotations? Does it critique or criticize any community or group? Are you boasting? Is your content selfish or hurtful? Does it showcase your persona in a negative light?
If the answer is “No” to all of the above, go ahead and post!