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Some Facts, If Not Myths…

Some managers send applicants friend requests or follow requests. Recently, a friend of mine actually received a friend request from his current employer. A simple reason why employers Google you or "follow" you on social networks is, of course, to learn more about you. This hints that they are genuinely interested in you after reading your resume and cover letter, and perhaps even considering inviting you for an interview. So, from an employer’s perspective, how do you navigate the role of social media in your job application process?

According to a recent survey released by CareerBuilder in May 2015, more than 52% of employers used social media to help determine whether candidates’ skills and qualifications met the job requirements. This figure is significantly higher than 43% in 2014 and 39% in 2013. More than 2000 full-time human resources experts took part in the survey.

Besides their intention to verify your experience and background information, employers also want to learn about your personality: what your hobbies and interests are, what you do outside of school (part-time and/or extracurricular activities), and are you a good fit with the company culture? When it comes to sensitive topics, such as religion and marital status, that interviewers are not supposed to ask during the interview, they will ask Google instead. With the high hiring, training, and turnover costs, employers research candidates via almost every possible online channel to ensure you've got what they’re looking for. 

According to another article (2) from CareerBuilder in 2014, the trend of employers passing on applicants after researching them online is experiencing an increase. More than a third of employers admitted that they would not interview a candidate if they could not find any information about her or him online. Some employers even screen out candidates after they check the applicants’ social networks. One main reason applicants are screened out is that potential employers are not very impressed at what applicants have shared online, either publicly or privately, causing employers to question the applicants’ professionalism. What it boils down to, based on the result of the survey, is that social media can affect your chance of getting hired negatively. This survey gathered information from more than 2000 experts in the field of human resources, and it indicated that employers turned down applicants due to one or more of the reasons stated below (1)

  • Shared inappropriate photographs or information - 46%

  • Posted photos about them drinking or using drugs - 41%

  • Posted negative comments about your previous employer or co-workers – 36%

  • Demonstrated poor communication skills – 32%

  • Posted discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender etc. – 28% 

However, social networks can be beneficial in the hiring process. If used properly and professionally, it could potentially attract employers and get you an interview. Some of the reasons employers (they could choose more than one reasons) want to hire applicants after checking out their social media include the following:

  • The applicant's personality fits with the company culture - 46%

  • Background information supported their professional qualifications for the job –45%

  • The candidate showed a professional image – 43%

  • The candidate is well-rounded – 40%

  •  Demonstrated great communication skills – 40%

Some Final Words…

The way you manage your online presence does say something about you, such as your level of professionalism. So, try Googling yourself and see what pops up. Then, ask yourself the following questions: does what you see represent you? Is that the message that you want to send to your future employers? If you were the employer, would you invite this applicant to come in for an interview?

Last but not least, make sure you monitor your social networks carefully (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn or any other social networks that you are currently using or you have owned in the past). You might want to consider removing any inappropriate posts before employers see it.

Be mindful of what you post!

SFU Co-op Student
Stella Liang is a fourth-year student studying Accounting & Finance at the Beedie School of Business and is a big supporter of the Co-op program at SFU. She has done a Co-op in Spring 2015, and is currently actively seeking for her second Co-op for 2016. In her spare time, she enjoys biking and photography.

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