It’s no secret that job seekers feel resentful of employers who invade their personal online space. Candidates march into my office every week proclaiming that they are entitled to their privacy. Unfortunately, hiring managers don’t see it that way. In their eyes, the more often they are able to see potential new hires in their “natural habitat,” without the fear of scrutiny from their boss and “work masks” unveiled, the better they can sense who they are as people – their values, natural behaviors and priorities. In the name of gaining a true profile of their candidates, employers are on the hunt for anything incriminating online – photo albums, personal messages, timeline posts, etc. As a result, I’m forced to give my famous “social media lecture” to most of the unknowing souls who walk through my door seeking employment.
My last conversation was with a 20-something, a newbie to the job search world looking for her second full-time gig. Despite her promising background, a heavily advertised passion for late night clubbing is what did her in. After recommending the young candidate for a position that, I felt, would unleash her great potential, the employer contacted me questioning how committed she was to her career, her concerns based on a few not-so-professional selfies on Facebook. And the kicker was, this hiring manager, maybe just a few years older, was a young gal herself. Yet wearing the hat of employer, she was suspicious of the very behavior that she was most certainly guilty of not too long ago. The difference? This young executive wasn’t publicizing her past for all the world to see. I reminded the hiring manager that if she didn’t have a trusted recruiter to consult, talented individuals would be taken out of the running without a second look.
Above and beyond harmless party photos, employers are searching for a multitude of indecent exposures on the web. For instance, people love to use social media hubs as a confessions booth to air their dirty laundry – to curse the guy who cut them off while driving home, to speak a little too freely on politics they deem unjust, and, my favorite, to demonize their former boss. Hiring employers go straight to the worst-case scenario: “Would they say such horrible things about me?” And it’s not just the inexperienced millennials who are making grave errors in judgment online. Professionals of all ages and walks of life are guilty of committing these job-seeking crimes. One particular gentleman, a senior level manager, began each of his Facebook status updates with a litany of ungodly statements such as, “FML, this job is killing me” (and I’m being kind here). Needless to say, it took him two years to secure a new position.
Although maintaining an active online presence is crucial to a successful job search, remember that the moment you push “Enter,” a personal thought you post on the web is no longer personal. So the next time you practice your first amendment rights on Facebook and Twitter, avoid anything that can be perceived as controversial or evoke negative emotion from an employer. And take advantage of those privacy settings – you control who sees your moments of vulnerability – limit that number to your trusted network of family and friends.
While having a positive social media presence that supports your job search is important, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Make sure your resume, cover letter, career story and overall plan are consistent. Our free Job Search Toolkit will help get you started.
Present a unified front as a candidate, one that employers will appreciate. Download it today!