Social networking sites have been around for some time now, but it’s only now that employers (you know, people who really matter to your career) are using these networks to screen potential employees. According to a recent study, it was found that almost half (45%) of all companies are diligently searching and exploring whatever social media presence candidates have.
No booze & drugs on Facebook please…
In the past, employers had to rely on pricey background checks and lengthy interview processes to get the gist of what a job candidate’s been up to prior to the interview. According to the study done by Harris Interactive, more than 2,500 human resource departments reported to have been using social media networking for primary screening of potential employees. A staggering 35% of them reported to have not hired certain individuals because of what they found online. Facebook, MySpace and personal blogs can become basis for being hired (…or not).
What kind of stuff can cause an employer to doubt your character as a good employee? First, nearly-naked (or completely naked) pictures can cause problems, as well as revealing things that just shouldn’t be shown online (like when your partied last Friday night – and didn’t remember it). 53% of respondents in the Harris Interactive study said they won’t hire you if they see such images and info on your social networking site.
Anything that has to do with drugs and alcohol has also been the basis for outwardly rejecting job candidates (44% of the respondents didn’t like this at all). Now, have you said anything nasty about your past employer in your personal blog? If you have, remove it NOW. In the past, there’s been a classic case of someone posting every ‘secret’ of his past employer on his social networking site. This can be the main reason why an employer won’t hire you. 35% of the respondents in the Harris study said so.
Is it all bad? Fortunately, no. A sizeable 18% from the study said that they found some sterling material on some job candidates’ social networking sites, which convinced them to hire immediately. As you can see, right now more people are posting stuff that are not helpful with their careers. Don’t make the same mistake; there’s opportunity here, and if you can find the right balance in the things that you put on your social networking sites, then you can really be heads and tails above the competition.
How headhunters are adapting to the changing times
The nineties was the age of self-help books, self-made tycoons and the birth of advanced headhunting strategies to get the best possible people for the job. Did cheaper internet, the Google Economy and social networking affect all this? A big yes. Seasoned headhunters from resilient companies in the US and elsewhere all say the same thing: in the past, it was hard to find the right guy for the job with the right employment history and educational background. In the past decade, headhunters had to spend days or even weeks trying to find a person with just the right profile. When they did find this person, they contacted him immediately and offered him the job. But now, if you needed someone for a job, you do a search on LinkedIn and you will find hundreds of people with identical profiles. This insane amount of information was what threw off headhunters when this kind of technology and networking finally became popular.
How do headhunters find people these days? The obvious choice would be massive databases like LinkedIn, but make no mistake: headhunters aren’t limited to LinkedIn. If they want to find someone who’s interested in a particular aspect of web development (like using the language Ruby), they would try to find Tweets for it or regular Yahoo! Groups that are already sharing information about Ruby. It’s as easy as that. Now headhunters have to reorganize their headhunting strategies, because they have a limited time to contact the right people. Of course, if 500 people in LinkedIn come up with basically the same credentials, headhunters would have to choose from this mess of qualified profiles.
So how do you pass the headhunter’s test, anyway?
Standing out on LinkedIn
Being on LinkedIn is like having a small cubicle, where you can put up your resume and other important stuff that can get you hired. The problem with this setup is that there are hundreds of other cubicles that tend to mirror each other in appearance and content. So when a headhunter finally looks at all the cubicles, he’ll say “Hmm… I think I’ll pick this one (not your cubicle) because it has everything I need to make a good choice as an HR person.” You graduated from a well-known university, you’re a team player and you know how to bring in roaring profits for any company you work for. So why didn’t you get hired? Maybe it has something to do with how your LinkedIn profile looked.
Here are some ways of improving your chances of getting noticed on LinkedIn and hopefully, getting that dream job you’ve always wanted.
- You must have great recommendations from people you’ve already connected with; colleagues, friends and former employers are good sources of such recommendations. There’s nothing wrong with asking them to be more detailed about the recommendations. Hey, if they’re setting aside time to write a recommendation, they might as well give a bit more effort, right?
- Your profile as a professional must be as complete as possible. Write down anything and everything that can be use by headhunters to compare you with other candidates.
- If you are a member of an online group or a community, make sure that your group is associated with your profession. This shows how you live and breathe your skills as a professional.
- Yes, your picture matters. Upload a nice picture. And don’t forget to smile!
- Your hobbies and interests are important to headhunters, too. Why? They reveal what kind of person you are. They also show how passionate you can be about something (or not).
- Your status updates are also vital. Updates show that you are monitoring your LinkedIn account and you’re eagerly waiting for someone to directly communicate with you for a job offer.
- Vital links on your profile must also include your former employer or present employer, as well as relevant sites that you are really interested in.
Blogging to the tune of “you’re hired!”
As a professional, your blog should also be a reflection of who you are as a private individual and as a worker in your chosen field. What do headhunters look for in personal blogs? Here are some of the most important things that you should remember:
- Be relevant- as a professional, you should have things to say about your industry, right? Say it! Show your insight and showcase your critical thinking on your blog.
- Share a bit about yourself- “oversharing” is the problem; but headhunters want to see what you are as a private citizen as well. If you like mountain climbing or angling, write about these things. Speak easy on your blog; there’s no need to be very careful with the things that you really want to blog about.
- Insults can ruin your chances- as mentioned earlier, talking about a former employer negatively can ruin your chances of being hired. Just don’t do it! It’s relatively pointless anyway; you’ve already left your former employer.
- Where’s your resume?- your resume should also be available through a hot link. Google Docs is a nice place to store your document.
- Regularity- as with your LinkedIn profile, it also pays to post regularly. This allows headhunters to create a better profile of who you are as a professional and as an individual.
- Be true- you don’t have to be perfect. But if you can present an honest writing voice on your blog, that’s a plus, too.
- Blogroll- if you have a blogroll that points to relevant blogs related to your profession or hobbies, you’re doing great. Relevancy and professional interests are key.
To create the best possible impression on headhunters, your Facebook account should also be relevant to your profession. The following should be observed to avoid being rejected by potential employers:
- Make sure you know when you are already oversharing; propriety is a sign of maturity and professionalism. Keep private matters private.
- Having frequent updates is also good; headhunters can more or less see what you’re up to when you’re not working.
- Your groups should also be relevant to what you do as a professional. Skip any groups that start with ” I bet I can find a million people who”
Believe it or not, headhunters are also looking at your Tweets. Here’s how to Tweet to success:
- Valuable Tweeting is best.
- If you’re following lots of people, lots of people should also be following you. This shows how big your network is. That being said, quality ALWAYS trumps quantity.
- Private matters must also be kept private; don’t overshare.
Why are employers using social media to screen job candidates, anyway?
Company attitudes and headhunters’ attitudes are changing; since there is no shortage of formally qualified candidates today, employers want the full monty: the right attitude, skills, work experience and of course, chemistry between candidate and employer. It’s all about improving the harmony of the company by finding people with the right temperament and approach to work and their private lives, in general. If they are comfortable with what they see on something as simple as a blog, then they can be sure that they would be comfortable with you as a person, working for them on a daily basis.
Isn’t it illegal for an employer to judge me based on private personal preferences?
If it is online, it isn’t private.