Who is afraid of social media?

If employers are stalking Facebook, should we avoid it?  

Alessandro Iacovangelo

We’ve all seen programmes or articles about social media faux pas which result in job losses or legal issues and many of us have now become paranoid online – but is the fear really justified?

Some employers are not only using social media to check on their current employees but are also using it to make decisions on hiring new applicants. Hovering over profile pages of potential applicants like an eagle, going in for the kill if bad grammar or naughty photos are spotted.

It does happen

Michael Clarke, Assistant Director of The Careers Group University London, claims this is simply not true. He said: “The recruiters I have talked to would regard it as bad practice” to make decisions based on social media.Although he added it does happen. An example used was a student that posted his gambling skills online, making it harder for career advisers to find willing employers in his chosen financial sector.

Drew Hillier, a freelancer – and past employer, agreed. Employers should only consider social media profiles in their choices: “If the role is calling for a specific journalistic (or networking) skill and the applicant has, say, a regular blog.

“I do not believe that delving into an applicant’s Facebook profile is helpful or even relevant; indeed – and apart from also considering such a strategy bordering on the unethical – I personally do not think anything is gleaned, professionally, from doing so.”

Wouldn’t want your mother to see

Although some recruiters think it is bad practice, social media is a convenience many employers use. So, it may not be recommended to post last night’s drunken rant.

Once hired, the risk of social media getting you in trouble is even greater. If you insult or gossip about the company, employer or colleague online – do not be surprised when you are being called into the office for the ‘talk’.

The general advice from Michael Clarke is: “Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want your mother to see, let alone an employer.”

Do not avoid social media

This is not a warning to avoid social media out of fear. Mr Clarke added having an online presence is important for any career.

“As an active job-seeking strategy, not having a good profile or background of positive interactions with future employers might put you at a disadvantage compared to those who have.” Especially with sites such as Twitter that make networking easier than ever.

Make-or-break

Freelancer Hiller ended with one tip: “Blogs – and, in my experience, the likes of LinkedIn – are invaluable. In the case of LinkedIn, not only should it be used as a de facto real-time CV, replete with as many skills endorsements as possible, but by signing up to a number of relevant groups it’s a really effective way of networking.”

The fact that more than 50% of England is connected to Facebook proves the potential it has to make-or-break your career, if you learn how.

Tips from The Careers Group: http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/library/index.php/tag/facebook/

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