Monday, September 22, 2008

Social Media and the Job Interview You Don't Know You're Having

When you interview for a job, you leave nothing to chance. You select the right outfit, get it dry cleaned, and show up looking your best. Your resume is printed on the finest of paper stock. You've considered and are prepared for the tough questions you're going to be asked (usually beginning with the phrase, "Tell me about a time when...")

But what about the interview you don't even know you're having? What if right this second, a potential employer is interviewing you and you're not even aware?

If that sounds absurd, then you've not considered what Social Media transparency means to the recruiting and candidate-selection process. We speak a lot about the impact of transparency to brands--that consumers know and share more, creating increased pressure on business to be honest and authentic. But how about when the shoe is on the other foot?

We all tend to be pretty casual in our Social Networks. My profile image on Facebook is of me holding a martini; a quick review of my last 20 Twitter posts show I had two misspellings; and I occasionally mention politics in my Twitter posts--it is election season, after all!

I would never walk into an interview holding a martini glass, share a resume with grammar errors, or talk politics with a hiring manager, so should I do these things in my Social Media interactions? There is no single answer to that; every individual will need to make that decision for themselves. It's easy to overlook, but the fact is our Social Media information isn't just accessible to the people who know us and can put that information into context; it's available to anyone for any purpose, including clients, bosses, coworkers, subordinates, prospects, friends, foes, and potential employers.

Is it "fair" for employers to seek out this information and use it for the purposes of hiring decisions? Before you answer that, ask yourself if it's "fair" that a single Comcast technician falling asleep in a consumer's home has become an embarrassment seen around the world by 1.3 million people on YouTube. As consumers, we are glad for the power and transparency of Social Media, but in the same way Social Media allows consumers to see past the marketing at the real company behind the ads, it also allows potential employers to see past your marketing at the real you behind the resume.

Fair or not, employers are gathering information about candidates from Social Networks. MarketingVox shares the results of a nationwide survey of some 3,100 employers. The study found that 22% of hiring managers say they use social-networking sites to research job candidates, double the amount that said this in 2006.

So, what are they looking for? The number one area of concern, cited by 41 percent of survey participants, were candidates who posted information about their drinking or using drugs. (Perhaps I should replace my martini photo with a more professional image?) A close second concern was candidates posting provocative or inappropriate photographs or information. Other potential employment issues in Social Media include poor communication skills, bad-mouthing a previous company or fellow employees, and discriminatory remarks relating to race, gender, religion, etc. You can even get dinged for the screename you choose!

The information you share on Social Networks can hurt your employability. One-third (34 percent) of hiring managers reported they found content that caused them to dismiss a candidate from consideration. On the other hand, 24 percent of hiring managers who researched job candidates via social-networking sites say they found content that helped to solidify their decision to hire a candidate.

How professional is your Social Media image? Check out the article on MarketingVox and you may soon find yourself polishing your online profile and altering your Social Media behavior.

Note: I'm on vacation this week but worked a little ahead to keep the content flowing on this blog. If you comment, I won't be able to read and respond to your message until this weekend.


Anonymous said...

As a one-time hiring manager myself I feel compelled to throw in the way I feel about social network profiles (keeping in mind that there are plenty of other hiring managers that are nowhere near as "hep to the jive" as I am, lol).

Everything an individual publishes of his or herself online is part of an outward "persona" they are trying to maintain across multiple spheres -- work, school, family, friends. Most of this goes on unconsciously, but I think the fact that you put a pic of yourself with a martini glass up is telling. Does it mean you're an alcoholic? Well, if I put a picture of a scantily-clad woman on my blog does it make me a porn addict? There's a line between casual and formal discourse, and no one -- NO ONE -- is expected to uphold the latter 24/7.

That having been said, I instruct my recruiters (we go through Dayak now, which saves me a lot of stress but means there's even more "spies" out there looking up your info :) ) to take everything they see on facebook/myspace with a grain of salt. That real estate is your personal space, you can do what you want with it (I do wish that job-searching folks that get REALLY salty, so to speak, online would take a few more steps to make their off-color abortion and racial jokes "private" to the outside world, tho. I don't know whether you're joking or not and it's hard for me to make objective assessments after reading this stuff). Linked In, on the other hand, is the place that you really need to prove that you can transcend the casual realm and step up to the professional plate.

To be honest, if I see a facebook profile that's a bit low-brow and a Linked In profile with impeccable grammar, design, etc -- I'm more impressed. It means this person can operate both worlds seamlessly, probably has some emotional intelligence, and a way to vent if either "sphere" is getting them down. I've hired several folks like this and they've been phenomenal. So my advice? Keep the martini glasses in view; just remember that BEFORE 5:00 the shirt stays tucked in.

Ben Royce said...

I agree. I ended up deleting my MySpace account just because I had trouble controlling what my so called friends were posting.

Now I list my interests as 'Interesting Things' and movies I like as 'Good ones'.

I figure its better than being judged for loving Kevin Pollak

AJ Karim said...

Great article Augie... Here is another take on how some of us may use a social media...

I was meeting a client face-to-face for the first time and just couldn't get the right vibe about her over the unemotional emails & brief, monotone phone conversations we had in the past.
A quick search on Google (using only her first & last name) led me to her personal web site, Facebook profile, and several other locations like her wish list & LinkedIn account. I quickly learned she had recently moved to the area, where she was originally from, what her interests were both professionally & personally, etc (I sound like a stalker, but it is public information she chose to post online for the world to see).
The kick-off meeting took place and I was armed with enough information to break the ice (she came in strong and didn't want to let her guard down, sadly my charm & good looks weren’t working)... before long I changed the direction of the conversation to focus on the similarities we possessed (both new to the LA area & the reasons we moved here) as well as movie & book connections we had.

It’s been a couple weeks now, but the conversation tone has completely changed... We deal with each other more as friends, less as business partners...

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Gerald, Ben, and AJ. Great comments. It's interesting to note the various ways we're all molding our online profiles or using others' profiles to learn mroe!

Anonymous said...

This is an outstanding article about the impact of social networking in areas we are unaware of. A good example is two young professional tennis players who lost their corporate sponsorship in July this year as their facebook sites showed inapprorpiate pictures of them partying the night before their Wimbledon matches!
Employers do use this as a form of background check, fair or not, so be aware and make sure the image your profile projects is one you would like a prospective employer to see if you are currently involved in a job search.
More Employment Background Check Information.