The good, the bad and the ugly of candidate social media

If most employers are honest, they do a fair bit of social media investigation when screening job applicants. And what they find online can reveal a lot about a candidate and whether they’re the right fit for an organisation.

Finding candidates with the right skill set can be straightforward, but it’s more challenging to find someone with a good cultural fit so you’re not rehiring in six months, says Lindsey Ruth, Head of Marketing Australia New Zealand at The Adecco Group. “Social media behaviour offers a glimpse into a candidate’s cultural fit.”

Typing a candidate’s name into LinkedIn is no longer enough, says Ruth. Other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter offer valuable information about a candidate and their personal brand.

The good

Jobseekers should remember that social media isn’t the enemy. “It can absolutely enhance their profile and personal brand”, says Ruth.

For creative industries in particular, job seekers should use social media to their advantage to develop a personal brand and make their mark as a thought leader. “I want to see that a candidate is visible and is engaging in the digital world,” says Ruth.

“If they’re posting about marketing trends and really cool websites and creative trends in the industry, then clearly they’re passionate about what they do, and that’s going to be of benefit for me to have a team member who’s excited about their career.”

It’s impressive when candidates reveal some of their personal life, skills and passions through social media, says Ruth. “It creates that personal brand that’s really engaging and interesting.”

A candidate’s collective online activity - the blogs they write, their status updates and the people and organisations they follow - reveals a lot about them, says Eliza Kirkby, Regional Director of Hays.

“You can glean a lot of information about the workplace culture in which they would thrive, their values, their ability to adapt to change and the likelihood of them being successful in your organisation,” says Kirkby.

“You can also look across platforms and online channels to ensure consistency, so that every update, tweet and share is true to who they say they are and what they say they can do.

“On Instagram a jobseeker could share examples of their work and show their passion for their sector or industry and related interests. Through Twitter they can demonstrate their interests and expertise. LinkedIn also represents a large part of their personal brand so see if they’ve joined relevant groups, share relevant updates and add to their profile regularly.”

The bad

Inconsistent job history raises alarm bells, says Kirkby. “As a hiring manager, you’ll definitely want to ask thorough and specific questions in an interview to determine why they don’t match, which job history is accurate, their level of honesty and their professionalism.” 

It also makes a negative impression when professionals who are expected to use social media, such as those in marketing and HR, have incomplete profiles.

Posting inappropriate material is another, Kirkby says. “We are constantly telling candidates to assume that anything they post online is accessible by anyone. So, if you see something online that leads you to question a candidate’s professionalism, it’s worth asking if this is really the right person for your department or organisation.”

It doesn’t do candidates any favours when they lock down their account’s privacy settings so nothing is visible, says Ruth.  “It’s almost more disingenuous if you go to somebody’s profile and everything’s hidden. You sometimes think, ‘what are they hiding?’”

People are becoming smarter about what they post online and are less likely to post inappropriate party photos, says Ruth.

“Although you sometimes get a sense that people’s behaviour and interests might be a bit off-centre, especially for the type of organisation you’re in.”

The ugly

Offensive online behaviour “is definitely a no-no,” says Kirkby. “If I see online behaviour such as this from a candidate, I would seriously question if this is someone I want to represent and put forward to my clients.”

Ugly online behaviour such as negative or even slanderous comments about former employers is “perplexing”, says Ruth, but it is surprisingly common.

“It’s quite shocking that even quite high-level employees in very professional sectors will post disgruntled things on social media. That kind of online behaviour doesn’t look good for their brand and their future employer.”

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SEEK Insights & Resources New Zealand

SEEK is the destination of choice for job-seekers and hirers in New Zealand, acting as the conduit between hirers looking to fill vacant roles and candidates looking for work across many and varied industries. SEEK's mission is to help people live...

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