Social Media: Make or break for candidates?

Recently I was asked by a press contact to provide some "expert" insight into how a candidate's web 2.0 presence can make or break the candidacy's perceived legitimacy. Since our practice focus is in Software, Internet, Mobile, Digital, and bleeding edge technologies, nearly all of the candidates we work with are active on each of the major social networks.  This writer was especially interested in Facebook do's/don'ts.  While I'm no more an expert on  this stuff than I am on the mating rituals of the Honey Badger,  below are a few worthwhile points I've gathered.  Pretty general stuff in the recruiting world, but would love to hear your experiences.


- If you have a Facebook page, anyone considering you as a potential hire WILL land on it. It is not the first place a recruiter turns, but it certainly makes the top three. What they find when they do could easily make or break your relationship with that recruiter and/or hirer. With that in mind, job seekers should consider Facebook a crucial component of their branding initiatives.


- The following items on a Facebook profile page cause red flags to fly. They should be regarded as potential deal breakers: racy or lascivious photos, photos that depict hard partying or overall immaturity, extreme religious or political expressions, bigotry (even if it’s in jest), unsavory or tactless humor, anything hinting at recreational drug use. These may seem obvious, but the Facebook environment lends to its users a false sense of privacy and a seemingly self-constructed ecosphere where true and embellished expression is acceptable. On many occasions our consultants have had to re-consider the legitimacy of a candidate after finding the above issues on a Facebook landing page. If you use Facebook liberally, my suggestion is to set an innocent and decent image of yourself as your profile picture and ratchet up the privacy settings to the highest degree so that guys like me can’t catch you with your pants down (so to speak).


- The same should be said for your Twitter feed. If you use Twitter with a degree of reckless abandon, lock your feed so that everyone must seek your approval before following. Whether you’re a gun-toting Republican, a tree hugging Democrat, a free-market Libertarian or a rabid Tea-Party conservative-the possibility exists that the person you hope will hire you believes in different ideals. Don’t introduce unnecessary mitigating factors and prejudices to the screening process by leaving your Twitter feed open to the public.


- The following items can help build your Personal Brand: a respectable profile picture in which you’re well-groomed or doing something that can be universally received as healthy or productive, “Interests” or “Likes” that depict your enthusiasm for and involvement in your professional community, University and/or academic affiliations and achievements, multiple languages that you speak, technical proficiencies, resume’ accomplishments, and current employer. My only caution regarding the above: make sure that what you list is truthful and consistent with what you’d present in an interview.


- LinkedIn profiles are very much worth maintaining. LinkedIn is the first stop a recruiter makes in trying to form a round opinion of your professional aptitude. Like it or not, maintaining a thorough and active presence on LinkedIn will grant your Brand early credibility with recruiters. LinkedIn offers many ways for one to showcase your industry enthusiasm and credentials, your victories, and your talents in a wholly professional ecosphere devoid of the social pressures inherent with Facebook and Twitter.


Finally, I urge candidates to view social media analogously to a credit history. A credit history showing frivolity and irresponsibility could make it impossible to buy the home or car you want, despite your current good-standing. And having no credit history will also make that loan tough to secure. Similarly, a social media presence depicting you in an unfavorable light, or no social media presence at all could cost you the job you want or need.


Elever Professional online:

Views: 774

Comment by Kara Stringer on September 8, 2011 at 4:17pm
Very nice article.  I love the comparison of social media and credit history, it is true that no social media can depict you unfavorably.  This is obviously an important topic to discuss!
Comment by Jeremy Spring on September 8, 2011 at 4:27pm
Thanks, Kara. It is certainly relevant. Maybe more so than any of us wish.
Comment by Jerry Albright on September 9, 2011 at 7:38am

Sorry - but I've got to disagree here.  (I seem to start many of my comments with that one......)


"If you have a Facebook page, anyone considering you as a potential hire WILL land on it."  This just isn't the case if you've got any sort of privacy to your profile.  It's so rare to find a candidate's profile open and accessible that for the most part - I don't even check.


My bigger issue is the notion that people should engage on Social Media only in ways employers would be OK with - should any employer ever - at any time in the future - stumble upon them.  I've got to disagree.   Why should people guide every action according to how it might be viewed by an employer?  I find the notion ridiculous.


I would think the more important guide should be: "Your friends ARE going to see this, read this and know this about you.  Are you cool with that?"  If the answer is yes - and most people realize that is the question each time they submit an update to any SM community - then do it. 


Have fun with life.  We recruiters tend to think every action a person takes in life should be viewed through the "what if an employer sees this?" lens.  Life would be quite dull if everyone thought that way.



Comment by Alasdair Murray on September 9, 2011 at 12:05pm
I agree with Jerry. You can't lead your life with a Big brother type attitude. Equally,boasting about the coke you snorted or the forgotten two days at the weekend that were induced by an excess of alcohol isn't a great idea either, but surely you should just be able to be yourself? Not everyone views Twitter etc. as a pre-interview scenario. Jeez, if I were looking for a job no conservative in their right mind would dream of hiring me because i cannot stand the UK Tories, but, that said, why shouldn't I be ableto say that I think our prime minister is a dog's c*ck? - so long as i do it with grace. All this furore about social media is crazy frankly. Most people will no sooner get a job via it than they will win the lottery,so my advice wouldbe -don't be a mouse, but at the same time don't be a moron online either. If some sad snooper judges you purely on your social network activity then, unless you're a psychopath, more fool them. frankly.
Comment by Jeremy Spring on September 9, 2011 at 12:28pm

In principle, I totally agree with you both. In fact, a point of the above post was " ratchet up the privacy settings to the highest degree". To hell with what people think about what I do in my social life. I'm an upstanding citizen. That I have a penchant for Bourbon and backyard beer doesn't have any bearing on how well I can make your software product better.

It just seems a little reckless (or naive) to assume that people won't dig for dirt on candidates and that what they find through a simple Google search won't influence their opinion.  


ratchet up the privacy settings to the highest degree so that guys like me can’t catch you with your pants down (so to speak).
Comment by Sandra McCartt on September 9, 2011 at 2:53pm

My take on all this is if anyone is dumb enough to put something out there on the net that they don't want the world to know why would anybody want to hire them and have them blab everything that goes on at work into cyberspace. 

 On the flip side if what one puts out there means that a company will not hire them why would they want to work there anyway.  I couldn't see Jerry working as a recruiter for a social media recruiting group because of the way he feels about it so why not know that before the fact instead of both parties wasting a bunch of time talking then Jerry says, "no way, i think what you are doing is a bunch of marlarky i can't and don't want to do that.


I don't think it's much different than the candidate who comes in your office or goes to an interview and reguritates too much information about their personal life or the idiot that goes to any public gathering and expounds ad nauseum about anything.


The real question is what is "dirt".  Dirt like anything else except in extremes is in the eye of the beholder.  What is dirt to me might be somebody else's  wowsey , wow, wow.



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