Career Center: Don’t Be Sabotaged by Social Media

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By Tim Hopkins

Most of our decisions in life are made in an instant, and many big ones are based on first impressions until we dig deeper. In the recruiting industry, I have seen first-hand just how much first impressions count when it comes to securing a new job.

When our son was born, we knew we needed to find a good environment for our baby. My wife and I began our search for a day care provider by looking at centers that were close to home and we made personal visits. Maybe it was our newness as parents, but we struggled to find a satisfactory environment for our precious little guy. In many instances, our decision was made within the first few minutes. Sometimes we instantly ruled out a center due to the lack of care of the building, or the cleanliness of the facility. Quite a few times we walked away because of the impression the staff left on us. So, why would employers base their decision any differently?

I have always looked at the job search process as a series of first impressions; your resume, telephone interview and face-to-face interview. Today employers are looking at another level of first impression – your social media profile.

We connect faster socially and professionally than ever before. There are 2.41 million active users monthly on Facebook. As for LinkedIn, there are 645 million users worldwide, with 146 million of those users in the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation estimates employees spend a minimum of an hour on social media daily.

So, make social media work for you. LinkedIn is a great way to network with peers in the industry. Professionals and companies use LinkedIn for various reasons, from exchanging knowledge and ideas to finding new talent. Most people start with LinkedIn by building their profile based on their resume and summarizing employment history, skills and professional accomplishments. Candidates are 36 times more likely to receive messages if they have a professional picture of themselves. Make sure your profile sends the right message with detailed, up-to-date and accurate information. Employers often cross reference a LinkedIn profile with previous applications and resumes. They are looking for career progression and any additional education, training or skills candidates may have picked up over time. On the flip side, they can also discover inconsistencies between the profile and a resume they have on file. These discrepancies could potentially damage your credibility. It is in your best interest to ensure your resume and LinkedIn profile convey the same message.

It’s no wonder employers turn to these resources to locate candidates and to find out more about potential talent. Criminal background checks, credit reports, Google searches and social media outlets (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) are all tools employers use to screen candidates. Think they don’t look at your social media pages? Think again!

Connecting with family and friends on social media is a wonderful tool if used correctly and for the right purpose. However, it can work against you in your professional career. Remember that once something is on the Internet, it is out there for a long time. Employers frequently utilize social media to find out more about a candidate’s character and ethical behavior. We have all done things in a social setting that would cause us embarrassment at one time or another. It is best to leave it in that place and time. Do not share it with the world to see, and certainly don’t leave a recorded timeline of your experiences.

Check Out Your Profiles! Go to each of your social media accounts and look at your profile. Ask yourself, “is this going to hurt me?” If you have to explain it, justify it or if you are embarrassed by it … the answer is yes. Remove it.

Privacy Please! While you are in each account, look at your privacy settings. Are your settings open to the entire world to view? Don’t forget that on Facebook even if your page settings are set to private, your posts can still be global. Be informed about your settings in each type of account and spend time securing your accounts.

Keep it in Check! To keep yourself in check, consider friending your mom or better yet, keep your profile and posts set to private.

Google It! Have you ever wondered what the Internet might say about you? Then Google your name and you might be shocked at what you find. Not only is it public information, but many local online newspapers also have entire sections dedicated to criminal activity ranging from assaults to drug possession. Chances are if you have been in trouble with the law, it will be public record. Be prepared to explain yourself if these things are in your past.

After You Are Hired. Your social media presence shouldn’t change too much after you get a job. Keep things private, don’t vent work frustrations, and never blast your boss or the company. It goes without saying that you should never use any social media while at work unless you are directly paid to do so. Most employers today monitor Internet usage. Imagine how your boss will react to finding out you posted on a social media site with time stamp at 9:30 a.m. when you should have been working. I’m pretty sure you would be ruled out as the employee of the month.

Wondering who has the time to check on social media activity? Some organizations are utilizing companies that specialize in social media background checks. These organizations provide on-line research from social media sites, blog posts and other Internet sites looking for negative or illegal activity made by potential and current employees.

With technology evolving as fast as it is, who knows what is in store next. The good news is if you are educated and conscientious about how you conduct yourself with social media you have little to worry about. Remember, you cannot land a job in 10 seconds, but you can be ruled out in 5! So, keep all of your first impressions positive.

Tim Hopkins is an executive recruiter with Stephens International Recruiting Inc.

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