Employers Checking Your Social Media, But Will It Hurt Your Chances?

For this year’s crop of college graduates, the use of social media is second nature.  However, will these grads’ comfort with sharing their lives on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram come back to haunt them as they search for their first job?  Not necessarily, according to one new survey.

In a poll of 100 human resources executives, 60 percent confirmed that they either always or sometimes check candidates’ social media activity, but only 6 percent said that activity has a significant impact on their hiring decision.

Read the full report here.

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Twitter Trouble: Recent Exec Firing Reminder To Think Before You Tweet

The firing this week of Pax Dickinson, the chief technology officer of online news site Business Insider, for comments he made on Twitter, should serve as a powerful reminder that social media should be treated with great care. 

“Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook are revolutionary tools that can help individuals build their own personal brand.  There are many benefits to using these sites as a way to further one’s job search and/or career.  However, there is a fine line between establishing an online image that can boost your professional reputation and one that can ruin it,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The fact that Dickinson’s comments were his own personal musings and in no way related to his employer or his position with the company was of little consequence once the tweets were brought to the employer’s attention.   Business Insider was put in the position of either defending Dickinson or letting him go. 

One could argue that Dickinson’s tweets were taken out of context.  However, that is the primary problem with social media; 140 characters does not really allow for context.  Besides lacking context, posts on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn do not lend themselves to nuanced communication or interpretation, such as satire, parody, sarcasm or irony.  A handful of one’s closest friends and followers might get the joke, but the majority is likely to misinterpret the intended meaning.

“So, why take the chance?  If Twitter serves as some type of cathartic outlet, then post under a pseudonym or as your alter-ego.   Otherwise, refrain from posting anything you would not say in front of a job interviewer, board of directors or religious leader,” said Challenger. 

The wrong tweet can not only get you fired, but it can also prevent you from finding a new job.  A recent survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 43 percent of hiring managers who research job seekers via social media found information that caused them to eliminate a candidate from consideration.  Half of the respondents indicated it was an inappropriate photo or statement that sealed the candidate’s fate.

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Challenger provided the following guidelines when it comes to managing one’s social media presence for the purposes of job search and/or career advancement:

Remember The Goal

All of your social media activity boils down to one objective, which is to pave the way for a face-to-face introduction. Keep your eyes on the prize as you have fun making new virtual connections.

Post Regularly

Post or tweet no less than once a week, and no more than three times a day. Social media sites will send you an update once a week or once a day; you can use that email as a reminder to log in and tweet, post, or contribute to a group discussion. Alternatively, set up a calendar reminder for yourself.

Personalize Requests

  • When possible, always send a personal note along with a connection request. Refrain from using stock messages such as, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”.  
  • When requesting an introduction, write a note to your mutual connection and then a separate note to the person you want to meet. In both cases, draft a compelling subject line and a short introduction that explains why you hope to connect.

Be Tactful in Follow-Up

There is no guarantee that everyone you want to connect with will want to connect with you. If you haven’t heard from a potential connection, send a reminder note 10 days after the initial request. If that doesn’t work, it’s best to move on to people who are more interested or responsive.

Interact Often

Consider congratulating your connections on accomplishments or commenting on articles they post. Contributing positively to your connections’ activity encourages them to do the same for you.

Be Professional

  • Use an appropriate picture for your profile (no pets, quirky backgrounds or funny expressions).
  • Your profile information should reflect the content of your cover letter and/or resume. The writing can be a little less formal, but proper grammar, spelling and proofreading are essential. Refrain from using abbreviations or emoticons.
  • Be totally truthful and never stretch the facts — remember that your profile is public.

Be Responsive

While logging in to each account daily is ideal, what’s most important is that you maintain a consistent presence and respond to messages, connection requests, and tweets in a timely fashion.

Be Diplomatic

Never be too direct. Asking your contacts for a job flat-out is neither polite nor appropriate.  Instead, request an in-person courtesy or informational interview, after you’ve established an online relationship.

Join Groups

  • The number of groups you belong to on LinkedIn and Facebook should reflect the number of professional affiliations you have (or want to have) in real life. For instance, if you attended college, were an accounting major and love social media, it would be great to join your alumni group, an accounting group or two and a social media group or two.
  • To get the most benefit from group participation, quality trumps quantity.

 

Andrew Mason Out At Groupon; Tweets Firing

This afternoon, Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon, tweeted a letter to his employees that he was fired as the head of the company, according to Crain’s Chicago. Groupon has been under scrutiny lately due to falling stock prices and meager results, and just yesterday released a quarterly statement outlining its poor performance. Mason has publically discussed the possibility of his removal, and his letter indicates that he was not surprised about the development. He will be replaced by chairman Eric Lefkofsky and board member Ted Leonsis. “This is likely the first Twitter response from a CEO regarding his removal,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “Most CEOs leave their posts quietly without revealing the true nature of the departure. However, Mason was known for being outspoken leader and not one to shy away from the spotlight.” Thirty-two year old Mason led Groupon for four and a half years. Through January, 113 CEOs have left their posts, one due to differences with board, and 13 of whom led computer companies. Last year, 45 CEOs were removed/ousted. Will other CEOs turn to social media to discuss succession changes? How might the public acknowledgement impact the company?

Employers Want Access To Your Facebook!

As employers become increasingly selective about whom they hire, it appears that some are taking the bold step of asking applicants for full access to their Facebook profiles, according to this article from the AP, which means handing over one’s username and password.  It is unclear how widespread this trend is, but one thing is clear: while social media has been a boon to job seekers’ ability to expand and utilize their network, there are many pitfalls associated with these sites that can derail a successful job search.  Job search authority John A. Challenger, CEOof global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., says employers should not have the right to ask for usernames and passwords and that candidates should refused to do so, but admits that not complying is likely to result in being eliminated from consideration.  That is, unless states enact laws to protect job applicants’ right to privacy.  “That being said, there are plenty of people out there who leave their social media profiles open for all to see.  It is important to understand that more and more employers are looking at whatever they can to inform the hiring decision.  Whether it is a photo from a college party posted on Facebook or incendiary comment on Twitter, employers are looking for anything that reveals more than candidates typically share in interviews.  Even a seemingly innocent remark on some social or political issue could put your candidacy at risk, if the hiring manager doesn’t happen to agree with your point of view.”  Should employers be allowed to ask for access to the non-public areas of one’s social media profile?  How should job seekers respond to such requests?  What can job seekers do to maximize the use of social media for the job search while minimizing the risk? 

Companies Struggle To Manage Social Media

In addition to nationwide heat waves, another threat to worker productivity comes from the increased use of social media by employees in the workplace.  The recent launch of Google+ as an alternative to Facebook has already attracted nearly 20 million users.  In addition to the potential impact on productivity resulting from workers idling their workdays away scanning status updates and playing Farmville, employers also worry that an employee’s post on Facebook or Twitter could reveal a company secret or damage its reputation.  In a recent survey of 120 multinational employers by the Proskauer International Labor & Employment Group 43 percent of respondents reported employee misuse of social networks and nearly one-third have taken disciplinary action against employees in relation to misuse of social networks.  Despite the threat to productivity and reputation, nearly half of all businesses do not have social media and networking policies in place.  Only 27 percent monitor employee use of social networking sites, while about 29 percent block access to social networking sites altogether.  “Workers definitely need to police themselves when it comes to using social media at the office,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.  “Obviously, you do not want the quantity or quality of your output to suffer because of the distraction but, more importantly, you do not want something you post to impact your current employment situation or your ability to find a job down the road.  More and more employers are looking at candidates’ Twitter and Facebook feeds for any clues that would help make a hiring decision.  So, always think twice about what you are about to post.”  Why do so many companies lack social media policies?  What can employers do to maximize the advantages of social media while minimizing the risks?  What could workers do to make sure their social media habits do not impact their employment situation?

 

 

 

BEST & WORST JOB SEARCH TOOLS

Hiring authorities have spoken and they agree; networking is the most valuable tool in the job seeker’s arsenal.  The least effective process for finding a job: attending job fairs.

In a new survey that asked human resources executives to rate the effectiveness of various job-search methods on a scale of 1 (least effective) to 5 (most effective), networking averaged a 3.98.  About half (48 percent) of the respondents gave networking the highest effectiveness rating of five.

The survey findings were released Monday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., which conducted the poll the first week of August via e-mail.

The second most effective job-search tool available is a relatively new one.  Social/professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, garnered an average rating of 3.3, with 47 percent of respondents giving it a rating of four or five.

Meanwhile, job fairs ranked as the least effective job-search method, scoring an average rating of 1.6.  It was followed closely by responding to newspaper classified ads and sending resumes to employers, which each averaged 1.7 on the rating scale.

Job fairs are particularly ineffective in recessions.  They are heavily attended by job seekers and lightly attended by employers.  Many of the employers that do attend are seeking very low-level workers, volunteers or unpaid sales representatives/franchisees who would have to be prodigious sellers to make a living wage.

And, while job seekers do get to interact with a representative of the company at the job fair, it hardly qualifies as networking.  The employer representative is rarely a decision maker and simply there to administer and collect applications.

Survey respondents gave Internet job boards relatively high marks.  It averaged a middle-of-the-road rating of 3.0, but 38 percent of respondents gave it a 4.0.

While the Internet has the potential to be very useful for job seekers, Challenger said that it has become the primary tool for many, when it should be considered secondary to the traditional technique of networking and meeting prospective employers in person.

surveyIt is important to remember that the job search is a multifaceted process.  Those who rely on just one tool, even if it is networking, will take longer to find a position.  The problem with the ease and accessibility of the Internet is that many job seekers make it their primary job search tool.

Overuse of the Internet also threatens to prolong the hiring process on the employer’s end, as well, by inundating employers with irrelevant resumes.  Some human resource executives complain that for every qualified candidate that comes in from the Internet, there are 10 to 20 who do not even come close to being a good fit.

The more irrelevant resumes that hiring managers have to wade through in order to select the handful to bring in for interviews, the longer it takes to fill the position.  One result of this has been the increased use of digital screening software that scans incoming resumes for keywords.  Resumes without the right words are filtered out of the process.  This will make it even more difficult for job seekers to get their resume in front of the hiring executive.

This is not to say that the Internet has not revolutionized job searching.  It has certainly made it easier for someone in San Francisco, for example, to search for job openings in Miami.  In addition, the ability to conduct keyword searches has reduced the amount of time it takes to target the type of position a person is seeking.

Job seekers must learn how to use all of the tools at their disposal, including networking, the Internet, newspapers, job fairs and even cold-calling employers.