CAREER EXPERT feat Chris Mead | Issue 61 of HEADHUNT

Dear Chris,

I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends. I’ve just heard that many employers are using this and other social networking sites to find out  more information about candidates. Is this true? How do I keep this only for private use?


Dear Pearline,

Thank you for your letter and a very interesting question. Social media is certainly a hot topic and over the past 18 months we have conducted  various surveys to find out more about its use in relation to employment, whether it's for accountant jobs or for other executive jobs.

Most recently we asked jobseekers if they think employers use social networking profiles to help vet applications. Not surprisingly the majority  feel that their personal life is their personal life, and their social media profile should not be used as part of the decision making process.

The  opposing argument says any actions that take place in the public domain are open to public scrutiny and assessment. From this position some  might say reviewing a candidate’s social media profile is not that different to conducting a security check - although consent is required for the  latter. So is a social media profile really any different from any other publicly available data?

In our experience, most employers do not leap to check a candidate’s online profile. It is far more common that an employer will extend their  vetting process to include social media only if they feel a candidate might not be what they are portraying themselves to be in their face-to-face  interview.

In such cases, a Facebook profile with a public setting may reveal content that could make an interviewer see you in a different light.

So if you  are job searching, it would be wise to change your privacy settings so that you do not share all your posted content with everyone. But don’t just  restrict your focus to pure social sites like Facebook or Twitter. What about content on video-sharing sites, online forums or blogs? What about comments you’ve made on social bookmarking sites? A potential employer who is using cyberspace to gather information about you will not  stop at Facebook, so neither should you when editing your social media profile. It is estimated that combined there are now over 200 sites  available.

Of course, you can also make cyberspace work for you to enhance a potential employer’s perception of you. For example, you can leverage the  LinkedIn network or show your passion for your particular specialisation by blogging about latest trends. This last point in particular can highlight your expertise to a potential employer and show them what you could bring to the company, which can be very powerful.

So be aware of your digital footprint. Everything that is posted online serves to represent who you are and employers can judge this information.  So ensure your communications remain professional because you don’t know who could read what your status updates!

Chris Mead
General Manager
HAYS Singapore

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