Lack of Social Media Presence Can Hurt Job Seekers

By Aliah D. Wright May 18, 2015
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Not having a presence on social media could hurt your career chances. According to the results of CareerBuilder’s annual survey on social media recruitment, 35 percent of employers are less likely to interview applicants they can’t find online.

The study found that hiring managers are using social networking sites and Web search to research prospective employees.

“Researching candidates via social media and other online sources has transformed from an emerging trend to a staple of online recruitment,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “In a competitive job market, recruiters are looking for all the information they can find that might help them make decisions. Rather than go off the grid, job seekers should make their professional persona visible online and ensure any information that could dissuade prospective employers is made private or removed.”

In an interview with SHRM Online via LinkedIn, Ben Eubanks, SHRM-SCP, an HR analyst at performance improvement research company Brandon Hall Group, said the findings make sense.

“I’ll admit that I have had reservations about moving forward with candidates who do not have a social presence, but I think it’s in part due to the type of positions I was recruiting against.” For example, he said, “many [of the candidates] were former military and didn’t have any social media presence to speak of. I’d say that is shifting now with the Transition Assistance Program the military is using, as well as the many communities for niche groups to meet and connect online. That program helps military personnel move into civilian jobs.

“On the other hand, if the position was dealing with marketing, business development or recruiting, I would have reservations about hiring people without a strong social background. As tools are changing, the skills and experience associated with using social media are becoming requirements for strong performance in those types of roles.”

In an interview with SHRM Online via Facebook, Jay Kuhns, vice president of operations and health care strategy at Kinetix, said candidates need a social media presence to stand out from other applicants. Kinetix is a recruitment process outsourcing firm.

“The job search process today requires differentiation,” he said. “There are many qualified candidates; however, the market has changed so quickly that only those that can be considered contemporary will get the interview opportunities. Understanding that social media is a competency versus something that the human resources or marketing department handles is now required. Stop denying reality, and get moving.”

Harris Poll conducted the national study for CareerBuilder between Feb. 11 and March 6, 2015. More than 2,000 U.S. hiring and human resource managers across industries and company sizes responded, as did more than 3,000 employees.

Other findings:

  • 53 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates, up significantly from 43 percent last year and 39 percent in 2013.
  • 35 percent of employers who screen via social networks have sent requests to “friend” or “follow” candidates with private accounts; most are granted permission.

Haefner points out that most recruiters aren’t intentionally looking for negatives. Sixty percent, in fact, are looking for information that supports the candidate’s qualifications for the job, according to the survey. For some occupations, this could include a professional portfolio. Fifty-six percent of recruiters want to see if the candidate has a professional online persona, 37 percent want to see what other people are posting about the candidate, and 21 percent admit they’re looking for reasons not to hire the candidate, according to a release about the study.

Industry Variations

Hiring managers in the financial services and IT sectors are more likely than others to use social networks to screen candidates:

  • IT (76 percent).
  • Financial services (64 percent).
  • Sales (61 percent).
  • Professional and business services (54 percent).
  • Manufacturing (49 percent).
  • Health care (49 percent).
  • Retail (46 percent).

Helpful and Harmful Content

Of employers that have sent requests to “friend” or “follow” candidates with private accounts, 80 percent said their request was accepted.

Depending on what hiring managers discover, the study revealed, candidates’ online material can hinder or assist their chances of finding employment. Forty-eight percent of hiring managers who look at candidates’ social media profiles said they’ve discovered information that caused them to reject a candidate. That’s 3 percent less than last year.

What turns employers off?

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs (cited by 46 percent of respondents).
  • Information about the candidate drinking or using drugs (40 percent).
  • Evidence that the candidate bad-mouthed a previous company or fellow employee (34 percent).
  • Poor communication skills (30 percent).
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. (29 percent).

On the other hand, 32 percent said they unearthed information that positively influenced their decision to extend a job offer, including:

  • Background information that supported the candidate’s qualifications for the position (42 percent).
  • Information that revealed the applicant’s personality fit with company culture (38 percent).
  • Data that conveyed the candidate’s professional image (38 percent).
  • Material that revealed great communication skills (37 percent).
  • Information showcasing creativity (36 percent).

Eubanks said the findings reveal that job seekers who are hesitant to delve into social media should try it out.

“It’s worthwhile to set up a basic about.me page or a LinkedIn profile that is complete with accomplishments, projects, etc.,” he said. “It can’t hurt your chances and it could definitely help, based on my experience in recruiting.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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