Digital Footprints: how social media can affect your job prospects

Written by Ingrid Smejkal | Blog | Candidates | Digital Technology | Posted 06/10/2017 15:33:25

Employers are stalkers. They know where you went to school, what you studied at university, what you watched on TV last night and the outfit you wore to a party last week. How? Because they look at your social media when you’ve applied for a job – and that’s unlucky for some candidates because in this age of information sharing, whatever you put into the internet can be found within minutes. This has resulted in the fact that, for many candidates their social media profile has become their new CV. So what impact can this have on your chances when you’ve applied for a role? How can you minimise the visibility and damage of your ‘digital footprints’?

Let’s start with why employers look at your online presence – isn’t your CV enough? Well there are several good reasons including seeing if you’d fit in with the culture of the team and workplace, checking if your qualifications match what’s on your CV and building an overall picture of your personality.

“Interviewees are on their best behaviour during job interviews, which makes it hard for hiring managers to determine if they’re really a good organisational fit. That’s why employers are turning to social media to get a better look at who candidates actually are.”

In one survey, it was revealed that “47% of employers check social networking sites to screen prospective employees immediately after receiving their job application” with “Facebook checked by 76% of employers, followed by Twitter (53%) and LinkedIn (48%)”.

It’s not all bad news, some “68% of employers have hired a candidate because of something they saw about them on a social networking site” but it’s still risky to assume your social media is in line with what the employer wants.

With this in mind, it’s worth thinking about what sort of image your social media profiles create. Whilst the odd swear word, poor bit of spelling or drunken photo of you at University won’t phase anyone (employers recognise that you’ve got a personality!), you need to bear in mind the consistent pattern your profile generates. If it’s mostly posts about your cat, you’re fine. But some employers will be turned off profiles that use excessive swearing, posts during work hours, controversial strong opinions or personal attacks.

To make sure you’re portraying the best version of yourself when you’re applying for jobs, here are my top solutions:

  • Think about what you’re posting: You don’t necessarily need to follow the ‘would you want your Grandma to see this?’ rule but bear in mind whether it’s something you’d want a prospective new boss to see if you know they’re on the lookout.
  • Check your privacy: Facebook and Twitter both have comprehensive privacy settings, but a staggering 13 million Facebook users don’t bother adding any protection to their profiles. Your tweets can be set to ‘private’, meaning only your picture and bio can be viewed and users need to request to follow you and see all content. But remember, as I said in my previous blog, you want your LinkedIn profile to be as visible as possible!
  • Sense and Sensibility: It really is a case of using your common sense when it comes to social media. Be aware employers will look for you so don’t post detrimental statuses about your current company or co-workers. If you have them, delete or untag any unsavoury photos, posts or groups you’re part of and make sure you have a friendly profile picture which wasn’t taken in the small hours of Saturday morning.

- Ingrid Smejkal, Head of Talent at RSG.



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