Wielding the Double-Edged Sword of Social Media in Your Job Search

By Koh Wanzi

In the digital age, where everything is literally at your fingertips, we may merrily abandon paper trails in favour of digital ones when it comes to job-hunting. But though you would not leave personal information or pictures lying around for anyone to find, many people are in fact doing the digital equivalent of this online.

More often than not, we indiscriminately upload pictures and content to our profiles on social media platforms such as Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn. Conspiracy theorists aside, many people do not fully realise the extent to which this information can be accessed.

In addition to random online creepy lurkers, we must now come to terms with the fact that there may be a few surprise (and official) visitors amongst our online viewers.

Your Online 'Résumé'
Employers’ assessments of job candidates are no longer restricted to paper resumes and face-to-face interviews. In fact, a whole new digital landscape is now available for additional, surreptitious screening on the part of employers.

A survey by Careerbuilder found that 37 per cent of employers use social networks to screen potential hires. In fact, a similar online survey conducted by JobsCentral found that an even higher proportion of employers—just over 75 per cent—performed online searches on candidates, with LinkedIn and Facebook being the two most popular go-to sites for employers.

Given that most people lead separate work and personal lives and present different aspects of themselves in different settings, the public nature of social media offers employers a window into the personal lives of employees. The CareerBuilder survey found that a sizable proportion of employers, almost 34 per cent, found content that ultimately resulted in a decision not to hire the candidate.

The reasons for such decisions include lying about qualifications, bad-mouthing previous employers or the sharing of confidential information pertaining to the latter, making discriminatory comments with regard to gender, race or religion, and photos indicating drinking or drug use. Clearly, social media profiles have the ability to negatively influence hiring decisions and can cost potential hires their jobs.

Turning the Tide in Your Favour
Nevertheless, social media profiles are should not be seen as pure liabilities, lest employees anxiously rush to board up all their virtual windows. On the flip side of the coin, the CareerBuilder survey found that 29 per cent of employers said that they found positive content that resulted in them hiring the candidate. Reasons cited for such hires include the profile showing that the candidate was creative, well-rounded and possessed good communication skills.

Social media is thus a double-edged blade that can be used to your advantage with proper discretion. Employees have full control over and are responsible for what we post on our online profiles, and instead of seeking to hide everything, you can leverage on the public nature of social media profiles and present what shows you at our best while actively making sure that potentially incriminating content or photos do not make their way online.

Make sure Big Boss Likes What He Sees
Utilising social media in a constructive and positive manner can help job seekers increase their visibility in the radar of potential employers and reinforce the qualities and qualifications that they seek to present on their resume and during interviews. The social media phenomenon is relatively new and its full ramifications are often not properly understood.

Make a constant mental note that there is no such thing as privacy online, and the knowledge that something can be done to take advantage of the public nature of this new medium can go a long way in assisting you in securing your dream job!

Do you use social media to check up on potential job candidates? Share with us in the comment box below!

The JobsCentral Group, a CareerBuilder company, is the owner of JobsCentral.com.sg, one of Singapore's largest job and learning portals. Get a free career personality test and more career- and education-related articles at JobsCentral and JobsCentral Community. Alternatively, Like us on JobsCentral Facebook Page or Follow JobsCentral on Twitter for more career-centric content!

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