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Will That Post Cost You Your Dream Job?

The following guest blog post from our board member John Hollon at TLNT follows up on an earlier post he wrote here about the rise in social media as a recruiting tool.  We’ve seen a continuing rise  in recruiter interest in leveraging social media as a means of identifying and assessing candidates.  John’s post below serves as a reminder to job seekers that managing their reputations online is the first step to getting a foot in the door.

When it comes to screening potential job candidates on social media, well, it’s a wonder that anyone ever gets hired at all.

We’ve all heard the warnings from managers to be careful about what you post on Facebook or elsewhere online, but for all the talk and warnings about how something embarrassing there can really hurt your job prospects, a lot of people still don’t seem to have gotten the message.

That’s how I read these latest survey results from CareerBuilder, anyway. In the middle of a generally upbeat report that notes that nearly two in five (37 percent) companies “use social network sites to research job candidates,” it also said that 35 percent of those same hiring managers “have found information that has caused them not to hire a candidate.”

What these hiring managers found, in general, is not surprising. According to CareerBuilder, it “ranges from evidence of inappropriate behavior to information that contradicted their listed qualifications.”

No, none of that is a big shock, but what jumped out at me were the specific types of information these hiring managers came across. For example:

  • 49 percent said the candidate posted provocative/inappropriate photos and/or information;
  • 45 percent said there was information about a candidate drinking or using drugs;
  • 33 percent had bad-mouthed their previous employer;
  • 28 percent made discriminatory comments concerning race, gender, religion, etc.
  • 22 percent lied about their qualifications.

Oh, and another 35 percent were found to have poor communication skills – but in light of the other information, that’s the least of their problems..

“Job seekers should be mindful of what potential employers can learn about them online,” said Rosemary Haefner, the vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder. “If you choose to leave social media content public, tailor the message to your advantage. Filter out anything that can tarnish your professional reputation and post communications, links and photos that portray you in the best possible light.”

That’s great advice as far as it goes, but I wonder: are the people who most need to be concerned about this even listening?

I ask because this notion of being careful with your online persona has been around for a long time – at least as long as people have been using social media, if not longer – and this survey found that still nearly half of the candidates hiring managers check out online have inappropriate photos posted out there.

Yes, a lot of people aren’t very careful in what they post about themselves, and all this does is make it all that much easier for recruiters and managers to eliminate them from the candidate pool.
Hiring is a crap shoot in the best of circumstances, as my friend Laurie Ruettimann wrote last year in her The Cynical Girl blog:

“There are myriad reasons why people get hired. We often choose the prettiest, tallest, whitest, most masculine, most boobalicious, most feminine candidate for the role. (And sometimes those people are the most qualified, too.) We claim that the hiring process is scientific, but in most cases, managers make decisions based on their gut.”

I happen to agree with Laurie’s assessment here, but it leads to another question: if so much of hiring comes down to a manager and their gut feeling, why do so many potential candidates mindlessly post something inappropriate on Facebook or some other social media site that kills their chances before a hiring manager can even get a good look at them?

That’s what I take away from this CareerBuilder survey. If you want to get hired, you need to play it smart – and playing it smart means being careful about your online image. And if you’re counseling would-be job seekers, you need to pound that message into their heads.

In fact, just playing it cool on social media increases a person’s odds by nearly 50 percent because they won’t be one of the ones that are posting “provocative/inappropriate photos and/or information” online.

Those are odds I’d be happy with in Las Vegas – and the return is a lot better, too.

And speaking of reputation management, don’t forget you can help me earn a contribution to the Alzheimer’s Association by visiting this blog every time we post!

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