Recruiting in the Age of Social Media: Friend or Foe?

When it comes to career advancement and recruitment, social media can be a double-edged sword.  Is it the magic bullet you need to find a new job–or more like the devil in disguise?

Hype is big right now on the power of social media to help you either kick-start a new career or move on to a new position. Social media has permeated a large part of our culture and, so reports that same social media, can help you in your job search.

In a single weekend, I found over half a dozen articles on LinkedIn reporting that social media is the way to put yourself out there for recruiters (one article, from the Mashable site, is below):

How Businesses Use Social Media for Recruiting:

Here’s what no one is telling you. If you don’t use caution, social media can be your enemy as well as your friend. Back in the good old days of social media, when I held a human resources position and the power of hiring was in my hands–when MySpace was king and Facebook users had little to no privacy–I was doing online searches for candidates whose resumes came across my desk.

Sometimes my searches would find links that showed candidates had participated in a 5k run or volunteered at a local animal shelter. Occasionally links to college-newspaper articles or mentions in high-school football games would appear.

Every once in a while, though, I’d find HR pay dirt: Unflattering photographs and posts from candidates involving drugs or excessive use of alcohol (as well as the occasional topless fraternity party snapshot); references to how much time was spent goofing off at a current position; what the candidate really did on that much-touted educational “semester abroad”; or even just poorly written communication that did little to help me view the candidate as best qualified for a writing or editing position.

Just as important as what you do show to potential recruiters is what you don’t show. Through your social media postings and updates, have you represented yourself in such a way that would make you attractive to employers? Are you showing your best face? Or is that same face passed out and smashed into the carpet at an office party? Do recruiters get to see the very best you? Or do they get to see way too much you?

As the person who snooped on so many of you, allow me to offer some advice. If you are actively pursuing a new position, keep your social media clean–or very private. If you are in an industry in which potential clients can find you on Facebook or Twitter, be careful what you post about your company. (You may also want to be sure your company does not have any rules about what is and is not allowed to be posted about the company via an employee’s private social media accounts.)

If you really want to be able to let your hair down and post whatever you please on your social media accounts, consider splitting yourself, with one professional account (with the lovely picture of you in a suit and tie) and one personal (with the unflattering picture of you falling into the river after a football game, foam “#1” finger still visible above the waves). I have two Twitter accounts (one for personal me and one for professional me) and three Facebook accounts (though one is for my two-year-old daughter)—but only one LinkedIn account.  (That’s hardly the place for the sharing of wacky shenanigans anyway.)  And in those two worlds of professional and personnel social media, very few individuals cross the line, though everyone is welcome onto my squeaky-clean professional pages.

What’s the takeaway message here? Social media can be your friend. It can help recruiters and other business associates see you in your role as a hard-working, sincere, intelligent, and serious business professional.  It may also magnify what may be seen to some human resource professionals as undignified behavior unwanted in their boardroom. Keep your public social media clean. And as for your private social media? Keep it private and secure and post as many pictures of you falling into the water as you want.

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